28 February 2017

King Chilperic I (±539-584), the Nero & Herod of his time

Frankish King Chilperic I (±539-584) was one of the sons of Clothaire I of the French Merovingian dynasty. After his father’s death in 561 Chilperic became King of Neustria (the northwestern part of France). Chilperic’s reign saw the introduction of the Byzantine punishment of eye-gouging (the act of pressing or tearing the eye). After sizing some ecclesiastical property, chronicler Gregory of Tours described Chilperic as “the Nero and Herod of his time”.

Chilperic murdering his wife
Chiliperic had his first wife Audovera, the mother of 5 of his children, committed to a convent. There she was murdered in 580. Next, Chilperic married the Visigothic Princess Galaswintha (540-568) in 567, but soon tired of her. One day she was found strangled in bed. She may have been murdered at the instigation of Chilperic’s mistress, a serving-woman called Fredegund, who then married him. Rumour also had it that Chilperic himself had murdered his wife in bed (see picture). 
Since Chilperic’s brother Sigibert had married Galaswintha’s sister, the Visigothic Princess Brunhilda, the murder of Galaswintha resulted in a series of bloody wars. In 575 Fredegund had Sigebert assassinated. His widow Brunhilda then married her nephew Merovech, a son of Chilperic and his first wife Audovera. To nullify the marriage, Chilperic had Merovech tonsured and sent to a monastery to become a priest.

There is a story that one day Chilperic found his new wife Fredegund washing over a basin, and then smacked her bottom. She thought it was her lover and cried out “what do you think you are doing, Landeric?’ She saved herself by having her husband killed. Chilperic was stabbed to death by an unkown assailant. 

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