THE WOOING OF CLOTILDE
 A BEAUTIFUL, wise, and well-learned maiden was Clotilde, princess of Burgundy, the noblest and most charming of the
daughters of the Franks. Such was the story that the voice of fame whispered into the ear of Clovis, the first
of the long line of Frankish kings. Beautiful she was, but unfortunate. Grief had marked her for its own. Her
father had been murdered. Her two brothers had shared his fate. Her mother had been thrown into the Rhone,
with a stone around her neck, and drowned. Her sister Chrona had taken religious vows. She remained alone, the
last of her family, not knowing at what moment she might share their fate, dwelling almost in exile at Geneva,
where her days were spent in works of charity and piety.
It was to her uncle, Gondebaud, king of the Burgundians, that she owed these misfortunes. Ambition was their
cause. The fierce barbarian, in whom desire for a throne outweighed all brotherly feeling, had murdered his
brother and seized the throne, leaving of the line of Chilperic only these two helpless girls, one a nun, the
other seemingly a devotee.
To the ears of Clovis, the king of the Franks, came, as we have said, the story of the beauty and misfortunes
of this Burgundian maiden, a scion like himself of the royal line of Germany, but an heir to sorrow and
exposed to peril. Clovis was young,
 unmarried, and ardent of heart. He craved the love of this famed maiden, if she should be as beautiful as
report said, but wisely wished to satisfy himself in this regard before making a formal demand for her hand.
He could not himself see her. Royal etiquette forbade that. Nor did he care to rouse Gondebaud's suspicions by
sending an envoy. He therefore adopted more secret measures, and sent a Roman, named Aurelian, bidding him to
seek Geneva in the guise of a beggar, and to use all his wit to gain sight of and speech with the fair
Clothed in rags, and bearing his wallet on his back, like a wandering mendicant, Aurelian set out on his
mission, travelling on foot to Geneva. Clovis had entrusted him with his ring, as proof of his mission, in
case he should deem the maiden worthy to be the bride of his king. Geneva was duly reached, and the seeming
pilgrim, learning where the princess dwelt, and her habits of Christian charity towards strangers, sought her
dwelling and begged for alms and shelter. Clotilde received him with all kindness, bade him welcome, and, in
pursuance of the custom of the times, washed his feet.
Aurelian, who had quickly made up his mind as to the beauty, grace, and wit of the royal maiden, and her
fitness to become a king's bride, bent towards her as she was thus humbly employed, and in a low voice said,—
"Lady, I have great matters to announce to thee, if thou wilt deign to grant me secret speech."
 Clotilde looked up quickly, and saw deep meaning in his face. "Surely," she thought, "this is no common
"Say on," she remarked, in the same cautious tone.
"Clovis, king of the Franks, has sent me to thee," said Aurelian. "If it be the will of God, he would fain
raise thee to his high rank by marriage, and that thou mayst be satisfied that I am a true messenger, he
sendeth thee this, his ring."
Clotilde joyfully took the ring, her heart beating high with hope and desire for revenge. Dismissing her
attendants, she warmly thanked the messenger for his caution, and declared that nothing could give her greater
joy than to be bride to Clovis, the great and valorous king who was bringing all the land of Gaul under his
"Take in payment for thy pains these hundred sous in gold and this ring of mine," she said. "Return promptly
to thy lord. If he would have my hand in marriage, let him send messengers without delay to demand me of my
uncle Gondebaud; and bid him direct his messengers, as soon as they obtain permission, to take me away in
haste. If they delay, I fear all will fail. Aridius, my uncle's counsellor, is on his way back from
Constantinople. If he should arrive, and gain my uncle's ear, before I am gone, all will come to naught.
Haste, then, and advise Clovis that there be no delay."
Aurelian was willing enough to comply with her request, but he met with obstacles on the way.
 Starting back in the same disguise in which he had come, he made all haste towards Orleans, where he dwelt,
and where he hoped to learn the location of the camp of the warlike Clovis. On nearing this city, he took for
travelling companion a poor mendicant, whom fortune threw in his way, and with whom he journeyed for miles in
the intimacy of the highway. Growing weary as night approached, and having confidence in his companion,
Aurelian fell asleep by the wayside, leaving the beggar to watch.
Several hours passed before he awoke. When he did so it was to find, to his intense alarm, that his companion
had vanished and his wallet had gone, and with it the gold which it contained and Clotilde's precious ring. In
dismay Aurelian hurried to the city, reached his home, and sent his servants in all directions in search of
the thievish mendicant, whom he felt sure had sought some lurking-place within the city walls.
His surmise was correct. The fellow was found and brought to him, the wallet and its valuable contents being
recovered intact. What was to be done with the thief? Those were not days of courts and prisons. Men were apt
to interpret law and administer punishment for themselves. Culprits were hung, thrashed, or set at liberty.
Aurelian weighed the offence and decided on the just measures of retribution. The culprit, so says the
chronicle, was soundly thrashed for three days, and then set free.
Having thus settled this knotty question of law,
 Aurelian continued his journey until Clovis was reached, told him what he had seen and what heard, and gave
him Clotilde's ring and message. Clovis was alike pleased with the favorable report of his messenger and with
the judicious advice of the maiden. He sent a deputation at once to Gondebaud, bidding the envoys to make no
delay either in going or returning, and to demand of Gondebaud the hand of his niece in marriage.
They found Gondebaud, and found him willing. The request of the powerful Clovis was not one to be safely
refused, and the Burgundian king was pleased with the idea of gaining his friendship, by giving him his niece
in marriage. His consent gained, the deputation offered him a denier and a sou, according to the marriage
customs of the Franks, and espoused Clotilde in the name of Clovis. Word was at once sent to Clovis of their
success, and without delay the king's council was assembled at Châlons, and preparations made for the
Meanwhile, news startling to Clotilde had reached Geneva. Aridius was on his way back. He had arrived at
Marseilles, and was travelling with all speed towards Burgundy. The alarmed woman, in a fever of impatience,
hastened the departure of the Franks, seemingly burning with desire to reach the court of the king, really
cold with fear at the near approach of the shrewd Aridius, whose counsel she greatly dreaded. Her nervous
haste expedited matters. Gondebaud formally transferred her to the Franks, with valuable gifts which he sent
as a marriage
 portion, and the cortege set out, Clotilde in a covered carriage, her attendants and escort on horseback. And
thus slowly moved away this old-time marriage-train.
But not far had they left the city behind them when Clotilde's impatience with their slow movement displayed
itself. She had kept herself advised. Aridius was near at hand. He might reach Geneva that very day. Calling
to her carriage the leaders of her escort, she said,—
"Good sirs, if you hope to take me into the presence of your lord, you must find me better means of speed than
this slow carriage. Let me descend, mount on horseback, and then away as fast as we may. Much I fear that, in
this carriage, I shall never see Clovis, your king."
Learning the reason of her haste, they did as requested, and mounted on one of their swiftest steeds, Clotilde
swept onward to love and vengeance, leaving the lumbering carriage to follow with her female attendants at its
She was none too soon. Not long had she left her uncle's court before Aridius reached it. Gondebaud, who had
unbounded respect for and confidence in him, received him joyfully, and said, after their first greetings,—
"I have just completed a good stroke of policy. I have made friends with the Franks, and given my niece
Clotilde to Clovis in marriage."
"You have?" exclaimed Aridius, in surprise and alarm. "And you deem this a bond of
friend-  ship? To my poor wit, Gondebaud, it is a pledge of perpetual strife. Have you forgotten, my lord, that you killed
Clotilde's father and drowned her mother, and that you cut off the heads of her brothers and threw their
bodies into a well? What think you this woman is made of? If she become powerful, will not revenge be her
first and only thought? She is not far gone; if you are wise you will send at once a troop in swift pursuit,
and bring her back. She is but one, the Franks are many. You will find it easier to bear the wrath of one
person than for you and yours to be perpetually at war with all the Franks."
Gondebaud saw the wisdom of these words, and lost no time in taking his councillor's advice. A troop was sent,
with orders to ride at all speed, and bring back Clotilde with the carriage and the treasure.
The carriage and the treasure they did bring back; but not Clotilde. She, with her escort, was already far
away, riding in haste for the frontier of Burgundy. Clovis had advanced to meet her, and was awaiting at
Villers, in the territory of Troyes, at no great distance from the border of Burgundy. But before reaching
this frontier, Clotilde gave vent to revengeful passion, crying to her escort,—
"Ride right and left! Plunder and burn! Do what damage you may to this hated country from which Heaven has
Then, as they rode away on their mission of ruin,
 to which they had obtained permission from Clovis, she cried aloud,—
"I thank thee, God omnipotent, for that I see in this the beginning of the vengeance which I owe to my
slaughtered parents and brethren!"
THE VOW OF CLOVIS.
In no long time afterwards she joined Clovis, who received her with a lover's joy, and in due season the
marriage was celebrated, with all the pomp and ceremony of which those rude times were capable.
Thus ends the romantic story told us by the chronicler Frédégaire, somewhat too romantic to be accepted for
veracious history, we fear. Yet it is interesting as a picture of the times, and has doubtless in it an
element of fact—though it may have been colored by imagination. Aurelian and Aridius are historical
personages, and what we know of them is in keeping with what is here told of them. So the reader may, if he
will, accept the story as an interesting compound of reality and romance.
But there is more to tell. Clotilde had an important historical part to play, which is picturesquely described
by the chronicler, Gregory of Tours. She was a Christian, Clovis a pagan; it was natural that she should
desire to convert her husband, and through him turn the nation of the Franks into worshippers of Christ. She
had a son, whom she wished to have baptized. She begged her husband to yield to her wishes.
"The gods you worship," she said, "are of wood, stone, or metal. They are nought, and can do nought for you or
 "It is by command of our gods that all things are created," answered Clovis. "It is plain that your God has
no power. There is no proof that he is even of the race of gods."
Yet he yielded to her wishes and let the child be baptized. Soon afterwards the infant died, and Clovis
reproached her bitterly.
"Had he been dedicated to my gods he would still be alive," he said. "He was baptized in the name of your God,
and you see the end; he could not live."
A second son was born, and was also baptized. He, too, fell sick.
"It will be with him as with his brother," said Clovis. "You have had your will in baptizing him, and he is
going to die. Is this the power of your Christ?"
But the child lived, and Clovis grew less incredulous of the God of his wife. In the year 496 war broke out
between him and a German tribe. The Germans were successful, the Franks wavering, Clovis was anxious. Before
hurrying to the front he had promised his wife—so says Frédégaire—to become a Christian if the victory were
his. Others say that he made this promise at the suggestion of Aurelian, at a moment when the battle seemed
lost. However that be, the tide of battle turned, the victory remained with the Franks, the Germans were
defeated and their king slain.
Clotilde, fearing that he would forget his promise, sent secretly to St. Remy, bishop of Rheims, to
 come and use his influence with the king. He did so, and fervently besought Clovis to accept the Christian
"I would willingly listen to you, holy father," said Clovis, "but I fear that the people who follow me will
not give up their gods. I am about to assemble them, and will repeat to them your words."
He found them more ready than he deemed. The story of his promise and the victory that followed it had,
doubtless, strongly influenced them. Before he could speak, most of those present cried out,—
"We abjure the mortal gods; we are ready to follow the immortal God whom Remy preaches."
About three thousand of the Franks, however, refused to give up their old faith, and deserted Clovis, joining
the Frankish King of Cambrai—who was before long to pay dearly for this addition to his ranks.
Christmas-day, 496, was fixed by Remy for the ceremony of baptism of the king and his followers, and on that
day, with impressive ceremonies, Clovis the king and about three thousand of his warriors were made
Christians, and the maker of the French nation was received into the fold of the Church. From that time
forward Clovis won victory after victory over his surrounding enemies. He had been born leader of a tribe. He
died king of a nation.
As regards Gundebaud, the result proved as Aridius predicted, whether or not through the personal influence of
Clotilde upon her husband. Clovis broke his truce with Gondebaud, and entered Burgundy
 with an army. Gondebaud was met and defeated at Dijon, partly through the treachery of his brother, whom
Clovis had won over. He fled to Avignon and shut himself up in that stronghold. Clovis pursued and besieged
him. Gondebaud, filled with alarm, asked counsel of Aridius, who told him that he had brought this upon
"I will save you, though," he said. "I will feign to fly and go over to Clovis. Trust me to act so that he
shall ruin neither you nor your land. But you must do what I ask."
"I will do whatever you bid," said Gondebaud.
Aridius thereupon sought Clovis, in the guise of a deserter from Gondebaud. But such was his intelligence, the
charm of his conversation, the wisdom and good judgment of his counsel, that Clovis was greatly taken with
him, and yielded to his advice.
"You gain nothing by ravaging the fields, cutting down the vines, and destroying the harvests of your
adversary," he said, "while he defies you in his stronghold. Rather send him deputies, and lay on him a
tribute to be paid you every year. Thus the land will be preserved, and you be lord forever over him who owes
you tribute. If he refuse, then do what pleases you."
Clovis deemed the advice good, did as requested, and found Gondebaud more than willing to become his tributary
vassal. And thus ended the contest between them, Burgundy becoming a tributary province of France.
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