I first read about this poem in Lincoln et al's 'Holy Blood Holy Grail‘. The authors described on page 265 how during the mid nineteenth century this curious document came to light. It was found at the Abbey of Orval and was a poem about the life of Dagobert II. It is not altogether surprising that this should be the case. Stenay, the royal villa of King Dagobert II is a stones throw away from Orval. It seems proper that monks recording the history and the legends of the area should write about Dagobert - who died in Stenay.
Orval in its antiquity was also a Merovingian settlement and Merovingian graves have been found there. What is interesting about this poem is that it differs from the accepted history we have of Dagobert. In the 'Life of Saint Wilfrid‘ we read that Dagobert was smuggled to Ireland by Bishop Dido when he was a baby. The Mayor of the Palace, Grimoald, had tried to engineer his own son on to the throne of Austrasia when Sigebert III died, Dagobert‘s father. The poem however narrates a different history and perhaps by plucking out some lines from it we can analyse this 'different‘ history.
He was brought to the monastery of Cale since his infancy
According to the poem it isn't clear whether this was the will of Dagobert II‘s father - that his son be packed off somewhere to be educated at Cale or whether this was related to the coup carried out by Grimoald I, son of Pippin I, and trusted mayor of the Palace for Sigebert III. The poem differs markedly from other sources we have - such as they are - which say that the infant Dagobert was smuggled out of France via a network of monasteries. These accounts say he ended up in Anglo-Saxon England, and Ireland.
Why is this poem so different in its treatment of the exile of Dagobert?
The only surviving account of this coup is retold in the Liber Historia Francorum. According to Gerberding (The Rise of the Carolingians, p47) this work has helped to 'dub its author the fabulator‘ and therefore not to be trusted. Gerberding, however, feels the title is unwarranted. Following the work of Krusch on the LHF and related by Gerberding in the paragraph below it is these essential points that historians agree on regarding the coup of Grimoald:
'In 656, Sigebert III, king of Austrasia, died leaving behind his widow Chimnechild, and an infant son, Dagobert. The queen, along with the mayor of the palace ….Grimoald, then took up the royal reins with the infant Dagobert II legitimately occupying the Merovingian throne. After four years ….Grimoald had the young king shorn and sent him off to Ireland on a pilgrimage…. The agent for Dagobert‘s pilgrimage was Bishop Dido of Poitiers … a member of a powerful Neustrian family. Once the legitimate Merovingian was out of the way, the ambitious Grimoald went a step further and placed his own son on the Austrasian throne. This usurpation, however, was certainly not part of the Neustrians[plan]…..the legitimate line, and Grimoalds own enemies, led by Chimnechild and the powerful Austrasian, Wulfoald, eventually prevailed …. And in 661/2 Grimoald was swept from power, tried, and executed by the Neustrian king, Chlothar III. Childeric II, son of the Neustrian regent, Balthild, was then married to Bilichild, the daughter of Queen Chimnechild, and imposed as King of Austrasia by the Neustrians‘
DE SANCTO DAGOBERTO MARTYRE PROSA however states that Dagobert II in his infancy was brought to the monastery of Cale. He would have been aged about six when he arrived at the monastery.
Cale is most probably the monastery of Chelles. Bede mentions it as the monastery where ‘Hilda, abbess of the monastery that is called Streanaeshalch, withdrew into the province of the East Angles, for she was allied to the king there; being desirous to cross over thence into Gaul, forsaking her native country and all that she had, and so to live a stranger for our Lords sake in the monastery of Cale, that she might the better attain to the eternal country in heaven. For her sister Heresuid, mother to Aldwulf, king of the East Angles, was at that time living in the same monastery, under regular discipline, waiting for an everlasting crown; and led by her example, she continued a whole year in the aforesaid province, with the design of going abroad; but afterwards, Bishop Aidan recalled her to her home, and she received land to the extent of one family on the north side of the river Wear; where likewise for a year she led a monastic life, with very few companions‘.
Chelles Abbey was founded by Balthild, widow of King Clovis II of Neustria circa 658. It had previously been the site of a Merovingian palace, the villa Calae. A church dedicated to Saint George had been founded at Chelles by Queen Clothilde. King Chilperic I and his wife Fredegund frequently resided there, and Chilperic was assassinated near Chelles in 584. Others associated with the villa include the Northumbrian princess Hereswith, sister of Saint Hilda; Swanachild, discarded wife of Charles Martel and Gisela and Rotrude, respectively sister and daughter of Charlemagne.
The Abbeys founder was Balthild and her son Childeric II married Bilichild, a sister or stepsister of Dagobert II. Should we see a connection here of Chimnechild trying to keep the Merovingian throne within her family?
There is a fascinating connection here. The famous Adalric/Etichon - a rich landowner installed in the royal villa at Obernai was an influential figure in the political and military history of Austrasia. In about 655, he married Berswinde, who, according to the Chronicon Ebersheimense, was the daughter of a sister of St. Leger, Bishop of Autun and sister of a Queen of the Franks. This queen of the Franks can only be Chimnéchilde, the wife of Sigebert III. On the basis of onomastics she may even be a sister of the Seneschal Hugobert. Berswinde is very religious and uses her wealth to spread among the poor. Every day she retired in the most isolated part of the palace, to devote her spare time to reading holy books and exercises of piety. It was only after several years, in 662, that their first daughter, Odile, was born. She is blind. They also had two son's - Adalbert and Hugues (who was the grandfather of another Hughes and an Adèle) and Etichon (who is the father of Hugh and an Alberic). There must be a relationship between the two families (Adalbert, the older Etichon-Adalrich - who was husband of Gerlinde, granddaughter Hugobert) but that does not explain the presence of various names found among the brothers of Adalbert and their descendants. There must have been a marriage in an earlier generation. The ancestry of Etichon-Adalric is well enough known to say that the marriage is not found there. The only solution left is to consider a close kinship between Hugobert and Bereswinde. Chronologically, they could be brother and sister. To explain the transmission of the names Alberic and Adele in the two families they must have been carried by the ancestors and relatives of Hugobert & Bereswinde, probably their parents. The Chronicon Ebersheimense (xiii century) indicates that Bereswinde was the niece of St. Leger of Autun [as we saw above] and that she had a sister, who was a queen of the Franks, who can only be chronologically this same Chimnechilde.
Chimnechilds ally, Wulfoald, is implicated in these events and also had a strong hand in the reinstatement of Dagobert II to the throne some years later. In the turmoil of these events perhaps Dagobert was rescued from the plans of Grimoald and Dido and was sent to Cale instead? How? Perhaps via Leodegar? He was in the right place at the right time, was an uncle of Dido, but however worked for Balthild and may have been instrumental in bringing Dagobert back from exile much later.
St Leger is Leodegar of Poitiers. Leodegar became one of the leaders of the opposition against Ebroin, mayor of the palace in Neustria. Ebroin accused Leodegar before King Clothar III but the king then died in 673, while the trial was still going on. Ebroin now installed Clothar's youngest brother, Theoderic III, as king. As the mayor denied the nobles of Neutria and Burgundy access to the king, they called in the middle brother, Childeric II, who had been king of Austrasia since 662 and now assumed rule over Neustria and Burgundy as well. Ebroin was interned at Luxeuil and Theoderic sent to St. Denis.
According to th Vita S. Bathildis Balthild was beautiful and intelligent & perhaps a relative of Ricberht of East Anglia, the last pagan king of East Anglia. Ricberht belonged to the Wuffingas dynasty, named after Wuffa, whose ancestors originated from northern Europe and whose descendants ruled the East Angles in an almost unbroken line until after the reign of Ælfwald in the middle of the 8th century. These East Angles are tentatively identified with the Geats of the Old English poem Beowulf.
It was Erchinoald who introduced Balthild to Clovis II, king of Neustria. Erchinoald succeeded Aega as the mayor of the palace of Neustria in 641 and succeeded Flaochad in Burgundy in 642 and remained such until his death in 658. The king's marriage to the pious Balthild reinforced Erchinoald's position at court. It has been suggested given the rarity of the name element "Erchin" among the Franks and Saxons that Queen Emma of Kent thought to be from Francia, and the wife of Eadbald of Kent was of this family and perhaps Erchinoald's daughter. Eadbald and Emma had a son Eorconbert ca.618 so Emma was probably born before 600 and was not a daughter but a sister or less likely a cousin of Erchinoald. This was a period of considerable Frankish influence in Kent and East Anglia and as one of the most powerful men in Francia located at his estate at Peronne not far from the English channel when he was not at court, it was Erchinoald who wielded this influence during his lifetime. Erchinoald supported efforts of successors of the Augustinian mission to England. One notable manner in which he both exerted influence and aided the mission was his involvement in and support of convents within his sphere of influence. Erchinoald himself married Leutsinde. Through her he had a son, Leudesius, who became the mayor of the palace of Neustria in 675. Leudesius inherited his father's properties on his death in 658. In 659, there was a dispute between the Archdiocese of Rouen and the Abbey of Saint-Denis, When, in 673, the Burgundians under Leodegar defeated the mayor Ebroin and king Theuderic_III, they exiled Ebroin to a monastery. The Austrasian mayor Wulfoald took over the power in Neustria, but fled back to Austrasia on the assassination of Childeric II in 675. The Neustrians turned to Leudesius to replace him. The next year, Ebroin returned. Leudesius and Theuderic III fled with the royal treasure to Baizieux where Ebroin overtook them and had Leudesius murdered.
According to Woods Erchinoald was an ally of Dagobert II and he was also the Mayor of the Palace of Clovis.
Fredegar also said that Erchinoald was a relative of King Dagobert I through Dagobert‘s mother (Haldetrude). Erchinoald succeeded Aega as the mayor of the palace of Neustria in 641 and succeeded Flaochad in Burgundy in 642 and remained such until his death in 658. According to Fredegar, he was a relative (consanguineus) of Dagobert I's mother. Chaume cites the Notitia de Fundatione Monasterii Glanderiensis to suggest that Erchinoald was descended from the Gallo Roman senator Ansbertus through a son of that senator also named Erchinoald and that Erchinoald's son Leudesius, and was therefor a descendant of the gallo-roman families of the Syagrii and Ferrèoli. Erchinoald's relationship with Merovingian King Dagobert has been proposed to have been through his mother Gerberga, daughter of Burgundian dux Ricomeres and Bertrude, her putative sister and mother of King Dagobert. Herchenfrida (Erchinfreda), mother of Desiderius of Cahors will have also been of this family as is further evidenced by that Gallo Roman saint's close ties to King Dagobert, and a brother named "Syagrius".
It is sometimes suggested that Dagobert II married an Anglo-Saxon princess. If this is correct it is more than likely that the princess may have been related to the royal family of the Kingdom of Kent. Why? Because Gregory the Great seems to have thought that the Merovingian kings under Theudebert I and Chilperic I exercised authority in Kent. Also Aethelberht married Charibert I’s daughter Bertha. Bertha’s daughter Ethelberga also felt able to send her children to King Dagobert I and his court for protection. Aethelberht had a son called Eadbald. He married Emma, a daughter of Erchinoald (who you remember was a cousin of Dagobert I through his mother Gerberge of Burgundy) a Mayor of the Palace whom we have already met and a supporter of Dagobert II.
When Dagobert II was kidnapped it seems apparent that his immediate family and friends did not know where he had gone. Later, when political events around Ebroin meant that he was conducting ‘witch hunts’, Adalric, a kinsman of Dagobert II, was trying to gain the ‘patricius’ of Provence. Adalric had been a supporter of Theuderic III who was a stepbrother of Dagobert II. When he didn’t get the ‘patricius’ Adalric deserted Theuderic III. Apparently he deserted back to the ‘austrasians’ who then ‘recalled’ Dagobert II. This Adalric married Berswinde in 655, who we met above and is sister of a queen of the Franks. The only queen who can match is Chimnéchilde - the possible mother of Dagobert II. How likely is it that Chimnechilde is the mother of Dagobert II then? Why was he not brought back from exile when Grimoald was murdered? As some scholars have noted perhaps it was because he was not the son of Sigebert III’s widow, Chimnechild? Nothing is known about Dagobert’s mother’s family: had it been aristocratic it would have presented a constant challenge to Chimnechild during the reign of her son-in-law and daughter and they would have been waiting in the wings on Childeric II’s death. Instead what happened was that Childeric, son of Clovis II and Balthild (and mother of the reigning Neustrian king, Chlotar III) was married to his Austrasian cousin, the Merovingian princess, Bilichild, a daughter of Sigebert III and Queen Chimnechild, and sent to rule Austrasia with his mother-in-law, Chimnechild as regent.
Leodegar spent his childhood in Paris at the court of Clotaire II, King of the Franks and was educated at the palace school. When he was older he was sent to Poitiers, where there was a long-established cathedral school, to study under his maternal uncle, Desiderius (Dido), Bishop of Poitiers. When he was twenty, his uncle made him an archdeacon. In the coup of Grimoald against the Merovigians it was Grimoald, tonsured the young Dagobert II, which deprived him of his rights to the royal succession, and then exiled him. He instructs Leodegar bishop of Poitiers to take him to a cloister in Ireland;Grimoald then spreads the rumor of Dagobert's death, and places Childebert on the throne. One can see through these connections how Chimnechilde, proposed sister of Leodegar, uncle of Dido, the Bishop who supposedly sent Dagobert II to Ireland would have found out this information.
Is it possible that this poem reflects a truer account regarding the life of Dagobert II? The persons cited via this monastery of Cale do seem to fit. And in some ways it makes more sense. However, one may argue that we already know Dagobert was exiled to Ireland. However, as Woods notices:
"According to Stephanus it was the King‘s (Dagobert) friends and relatives, amici et proximi, who were responsible for the return of Dagobert to claim his kingdom".
Did his friends and relatives know that he was at Chelles much more than somewhere in Ireland! After all Chelles was founded by the Queen-Saint Balthild, wife of King Clovis II (639-657/658), an Anglo-Saxon aristocrat who had been taken to Gaul as a slave, founded the abbey around 657/660 on the ruins of the Clothilde's chapel as a monastery for women. She gave the first of two great endowments to its construction, enabling the abbey and a large new Church of the Holy Cross to be built. Though no charters survive, in "Life of Saint Balthild", there are references to the gifts she made to the abbey.
If we follow the legends as it is now - did Dagobert recieve the help of much closer friends and relatives to return, rather than just the help of Wilfrid? The main agent of Dagobert's return was Wilfrid, how did he know about him and how did he know the friends and relatives of Dagobert?
In the poem it states that from Cale Dagobert was 'called to Rheims‘.
There are no dates given and so we have no idea of the age of Dagobert. Who called him to Rheims? Or did he go to Rheims for his own reasons? Was it perhaps the Bishop of Rheim's during the time? From the dates we have only the following Archbishops relevant: St. Nivard(c.657–673) He was brother-in-law of Childeric II. He restored Hautvilliers Abbey and was later buried there. St. Rieul(673–c.689), bishop of that town from 673 to around 689. He was a supporter of Ebroin. Ebroin's supporters included Praejectus, St. Agilbert of Paris, and St. Ouen of Rouen. St Nivard would be linked more sensibly to Dagobert II. (Childeric II had married Dagobert‘s sister). A faction of prominent Burgundian nobles led by Leodegar and Eticho invited Childeric to become king in Neustria and Burgundy after the death of Chlotar III. He invaded his brother's kingdom and displaced him, becoming sole king. He made his Austrasian mayor of the palace, Wulfoald, mayor also in Neustria and Burgundy, displacing Ebroin of Neustria and upsetting his supporters in Burgundy who did not wish to see functionaries active in a kingdom other than their native one. Wulfoald was a supporter of Dagobert II, as was Eticho.
In March 675 Childeric had granted honores in Alsace to Eticho with the title of dux. This grant was most probably the result of Eticho's continued support for Childeric in Burgundy which had often disputed possession of Alsace with Austrasia. These events may have coloured the archbishop of Rouen, Rieul. (Rieul was a supporter of Ebroin). The persons working with Childeric II such as Leodegar and Eticho were related to the Merovigian line of Dagobert II and did not support Ebroin. Eticho first enters history as a member of the faction of nobles which invited Childeric II to take the kingship of Neustria and Burgundy in 673 after the death of Chlothar III. He married Berswinda, a relative of Leodegar, the famous Bishop of Autun, whose party he supported in the civil war which followed Childeric's assassination two years later (675). After Childeric's assassination Eticho threw his support behind Dagobert II for the Austrasian throne. Some time before that he had abandoned Leodegar and transferred over to the side of Ebroin - the mayor of the palace of Neustria sometime before 677, when he appears as an ally of Theuderic, who granted him the monastery of Bèze. Taking advantage of the assassination of Hector of Provence in 679 to bid for power in Provence, Eticho marched on Lyon but failed to take it and, returning to Alsace, switched his support to the Austrasians once more, only to find himself dispossessed of his lands in Alsace by King Theuderic III, an ally (and puppet) of Ebroin's who had been opposing Dagobert in Austrasia since 675.
In all this confusion Woods asserts that Eticho may have been a member of the 'amici et pro-imi‘(friends and relatives) of Dagobert II, as cited by Stephanus, who were responsible for Dagobert II‘s return. It would seem from the Orval poem, that Dagobert‘s 'return‘ essentially was his recall from Cale monastery. As we have seen this monastery has all the links and connections to Dagoberts family - they knew exactly where he was. Perhaps he was recalled from Cale during the civil war that began after the death of Chlotar III?
From this place he returned, And pious he visited the Zone of Saint-Denis
Does this refer to the bascillica of Saint Denis perhaps? The building, created by his grandfather Dagobert 1, has origins much older than that. In the 2nd century, there was a Gallo-Roman village named Catolacus; the location that Saint-Denis occupies today. Saint Denis, the first bishop of Paris and patron saint of France, was martyred in about 250 and buried in the cemetery of Catolacus. Denis' tomb quickly became a place of worship. Sainte Geneviève, around 475, had a small chapel erected on Denis' tomb, by then a popular destination for pilgrims. It was this chapel that Dagobert I had rebuilt and turned into a royal monastery. Dagobert granted many privileges to the monastery: independence from the bishop of Paris, the right to hold a market, and, most importantly, he was buried in Saint-Denis; a tradition which was followed by almost all his successors. The Archbishop of Paris at the time of Dagobert II was Landericus of Paris (d. ca. 661). He was consecrated bishop of Paris in 650, he built the first major hospital in the city, dedicating it to Saint Christopher, which is now the Hôtel-Dieu. Landry, with twenty-three other bishops, subscribed to the charter Clovis II gave to Saint-Denis Abbey in 653. Another bishop of Saint Denis was Agilbert (floruit circa 650–680 AD) - who was the second Bishop of the West Saxon kingdom and later Bishop of Paris. Son of a Neustrian noble named Betto, he was a first cousin of Saint Audoin and related to the Faronids and Agilolfings, and less certainly to the Merovingians. It was Agilbert, according to Bede, who ordained Wilfrid. Wilfrid was central in the life of Dagobert II and to whom Dagobert II offered the see of Strasbourg in gratitude. Agilbert was present at the Synod of Whitby in 664, where he led the pro-Roman party, and he had the young Wilfrid speak on his behalf . Returning to Francia Agilbert later took part in Wilfrid's consecration as a bishop at Compiègne.
Rouen is visited, It is discussed about the feud
Here Dagobert visits Rouen. And he seems to be involved in discussions about a feud, and where an unfair judgement is made. Is it a family feud? Or, in the context of the poem, which recalls Dagobert as a holy martyr and saint, is it to do with church history? At the time of Dagobert II and in the context of the Bishop of Paris, and with links to Wilfrid, there is only one great feud at the time. It may have been related to the events recorded at the Synod of Whitby - the Roman churches and those in the British Isles (often called "Celtic churches") used different methods to calculate the date of Easter. The church in Northumbria had traditionally used the former calculation and that was the date observed by King Oswiu. His wife Eanflæd and a son, Alhfrith, celebrated Easter on the Roman date however, which meant that while one part of the royal court was still observing the Lenten fast, the second would be celebrating with feasting. But one could ask why would Dagobert II be interested in this feud?
The feud could however be something to do with Leudesius. Leudesius inherited his father's properties on his death in 658. In 659, there was a dispute between the Archdiocese of Rouen and the Abbey of Saint-Denis over his property. (Leudesius was the son of Erchinolad, Mayor of the Palace under Clovis II. We have seen that Erchinoald was a relative of Dagobert I through his mother Haldetrude). Dagobert I was the eldest son of Chlothar II and Haldetrude (575–604). Chlothar II had reigned alone over all the Franks since 613. In 623, Chlothar was forced to make Dagobert king of Austrasia by the nobility of that region, who wanted a king of their own. When Chlothar II granted Austrasia to Dagobert, he initially excluded Alsace, the Vosges, and the Ardennes, but shortly thereafter the Austrasian nobility forced him to concede these regions to Dagobert. The rule of a Frank from the Austrasian heartland tied Alsace more closely to the Austrasian court. Dagobert created a new duchy (the later Duchy of Alsace) in southwest Austrasia to guard the region from Burgundian or Alemannic encroachments and ambitions. The duchy comprised the Vosges, the Burgundian Gate, and the Transjura. Dagobert made his courtier Gundoin the first duke of this new polity that was to last until the end of the Merovingian dynasty. On the death of his father in 629, Dagobert inherited the Neustrian and Burgundian kingdoms. His half-brother Charibert, son of Sichilde, claimed Neustria but Dagobert opposed him. Brodulf, the brother of Sichilde, petitioned Dagobert on behalf of his young nephew, but Dagobert assassinated him and gave his younger sibling Aquitaine.
Charibert died in 632 and his son Chilperic was assassinated on Dagobert's orders. By 632, Dagobert had Burgundy and Aquitaine firmly under his rule, becoming the most powerful Merovingian king in many years and the most respected ruler in the West. Also in 632, the nobles of Austrasia revolted under the mayor of the palace, Pepin of Landen. In 634, Dagobert appeased the rebellious nobles by putting his three-year-old son, Sigebert III, on the throne, thereby ceding royal power in the easternmost of his realms, just as his father had done for him eleven years earlier.
As king, Dagobert made Paris his capital. Devoutly religious, Dagobert was also responsible for the construction of the Saint Denis Basilica, at the site of a Benedictine monastery in Paris. Dagobert died in the abbey of Saint-Denis and was the first Frankish king to be buried in the Saint Denis Basilica, Paris. Perhaps Dagobert II, as grandson of Dagobert I, had some later authority over the properties obtained by Leudesius in 658. However, a quick chronological check shows that this is impossible. It was in the 650‘s that Dagobert II was allegedly kidnapped and sent in to exile by Grimoald, the Mayor of the Palace.However, this further research on Dagobert I allowed me to realise what the 'feud‘ may be a reference to in this line of the poem.
The feud has everything to do with Dagobert II. For it is the family feud between the Merovingians and the Arnulfings, the ancestors of those later Carolingians. It is a feud that is most probably still going on today! And it is a feud that began with the abduction of Dagobert II! The origin of the feud is absolutely with Grimoald. Grimoald, by bold impertinence, when his King died, did not oversee the elevation of that King‘s son. He packed the boy, Dagobert II, off into exile, to a monastery. In seventh century Francia, monasteries were not just the pious and religious establishments that promulgated the Christian faith. It was very often the way local aristocracy ensured their own political power. And what is more if the founded monastery had Royal consent and patronage the monastery itself would become even more powerful. Thus local families vied with each other in establishing monasteries and convents to maintain political power and control. And these monasteries effectively also acted as 'prisons‘. Thus Grimoald must have exiled Dagobert II through the network of monasteries he controlled. Grimoald proceeded to then place his son on the throne giving him the name Childebert. Noble factions from Neustria and Austrasia could not tolerate this. They joined forces to remove Grimoald and bring him before Clovis II for trial. He was put to death. When Clovis himself died his son Chlotar III became King with his mother Queen Balthild as regent. Why was Dagobert not brought back at this point? Was it because Balthild did not know where Dagobert was? According to this poem though she should have known he was at the Monastery she created, Chelles. Perhaps she did not recall him because he was so young, or perhaps because he was not the son of Sigebert III‘s widow, Chimnechild? Nothing is known about Dagobert‘s mother‘s family: had it been aristocratic it would have presented a constant challenge to Chimnechild during the reign of her son-in-law and daughter and they would have been waiting in the wings on Childeric II‘s death. (An old tradition in the Austrasie kingdom, reports that Chimnechild was from the family of King Sigismund of Burgundy).
After the death of Clovis, when one would perhaps expect Dagobert II to reappear - what happened was that Childeric, son of Clovis II and Balthild (and mother of the reigning Neustrian king, Chlotar III) was married to his Austrasian cousin, the Merovingian princess, Bilichild, a daughter of Sigebert III and Queen Chimnechild, and sent to rule Austrasia with his mother-in-law, Chimnechild as regent. The Austrasian mayor of the palace became Wulfoald. Was this betrayal just as bad as that committed by Grimoald? Dagobert II was excluded from the throne by his own family with his sister being married off to Childeric, nephew of Dagobert! Grimoald stood at the head of the family that would one day produce Charlemagne. These events of the 650‘s led the Pippinids to lose the leadership of the Austrasia court for about 20 years. However, in the 670‘s, precisely when Dagobert II returns, this ‘family feud‘ is sparked off again! This time the family against the Merovingians is led by Pippin II. Paradoxically, it is this Pippin who may have had a hand in the recall of Dagobert II back from exile - although Woods questions this scenario. Others suggest that Dagobert becomes Pippin II‘s King! Much of this family feud goes back much further in time. When Dagobert I chose a guardian for his young son Sigebert III - he chose Otto, who belonged to a family consisting of Pippinid rivals and enemies. When Pippin I died in 640 Sigebert chose Otto to succeed him thus overlooking Pippin‘s son Grimoald. King Clovis I had united all of Gaul under one mighty Merovingian king. His royal centre was Paris. At his death his vast kingdom was divided between his four sons and towards the end of the sixth century. Three lasting Merovingian political units survived: Burgundy, Austrasia and Neustria. The family of Carolingians who sought to overthrow the Merovingians were easterners, that is they came from the Kingdom of Austrasia. This kingdom by the seventh century belonged to Sigebert III and to his son Dagobert II. But even in the time of Dagobert I these early ancestors of the Carolingians were trying to usurp power. What right did they have to usurp the kingship? Or perhaps as indigenous Easterners the Pippinids felt they should rightfully rule? The founders of the Carolingian line, Pippin I and Arnulf of Metz, are said in their vitas to have come from the Frankish nobility. Arnulf‘s father was Baudgise or Baudegisel II of Aquitaine or Carthage (d. 588), Palace Mayor and Duke of Sueve. His mother was Oda. In his younger years he was called to the Merovingian court of king Theudebert II (595-612) of Austrasia and sent to serve as dux at the Schelde. Later he became bishop of Metz. During his career he was attracted to religious life and later retired to become a monk. Arnulf gave distinguished service at the Austrasian court under Theudebert II. After the death of Theudebert in 612 he was made bishop of Metz. The rule of Austrasia came into the hands of Brunhilda, the grandmother of Theudebert, who ruled also in Burgundy in the name of her great-grandchildren. In 613 Arnulf joined his politics with Pippin of Landen and led the opposition of Frankish nobles against Queen Brunhilda. The revolt led to her overthrow, torture, and eventual execution and the subsequent reunification of Frankish lands under Chlothar II. Chlothar later made his son Dagobert I king of Austrasia and he ruled with the help of his advisor Arnulf. In 623 he gave the kingdom of Austrasia to his young son Dagobert I. This was a political move as repayment for the support that Bishop Arnulf of Metz and Pepin I, mayor of the palace of Austrasia, gave him. These were two leading Austrasian nobles who were effectively granted semi-autonomy. Not satisfied with his position, Arnulf, as a bishop was involved in the murder of Chrodoald in 624, an important leader of the Frankish Agilolfings family and a protégé of Dagobert. From 623 (with Pippin of Landen, then the Mayor of the Palace) Arnulf was an adviser to Dagobert I. He retired around 628 to a hermitage at a mountain site in the Vosges to realise his lifelong resolution to become a monk and a hermit. His friend Romaric, whose parents were killed by Brunhilda, had preceded him to the mountains and together with Amatus they established Remiremont Abbey there. Arnulf settled there and remained there until his death twelve years later. Arnulf was married ca 596 to a woman whom later sources give the name of Dode or Doda (born ca 584) and had children. Chlodulf of Metz was his oldest son but more important is his second son Ansegisel, who married Begga daughter of Pepin I, Pippin of Landen. Arnulf is thus the male-line grandfather of Charles Martel and great-great grandfather of Charlemagne. This feuding of the Merovingians and their aristocratic rivals - the Pippinds - goes back along way. Grimolad, in his time, felt sufficiently strong enough to take the office of mayor by simply having Otto killed, and as we saw above, Otto had been chosen by Dagobert I and then Sigebert III. Otto was killed by Leuthar, an Alemmannian duke. Why then did Dagobert II go to Rouen to discuss the 'feud‘? What kind of judgement is delayed, but when a decision is approved is thought to be a 'decision of the unfair‘? Elements of this feud are picked up in the Vita Geretrudis - an account of the life of Geretrudis. The Vita speaks of the attacks on the monastery of Nivelles (Geretrudis was the founder of this monastery of Nivelles and she was the daughter of Grimoald). It‘s author presents Wulftrude, having succeeded her aunt Geretrude as head of the convent, undergoing violent pressure … 'it happened out of hatred of her father, that kings, queens and even priests ….wished to drag her … by force … from the property of God‘. Scholars identify the persecutors of Wulftrude as Chlotar III Childeric II as well as Balthild and Queen Chimnechild. Thus behind the kings and queens who attacked Wulftrude lay the shadow of Wulfoald, the new Austrasian Mayor of the Palace and Gunduin, his son-in-law. It was Gunduin who had murdered Ansegisil, Grimoalds brother-in-law. This was the heart of the struggle - which over at least two generations had pitted the Wulfoald/Gunduin group (a group in favour of Dagobert II) against the Pipinids/Arnulfings. Wulfoald‘s death, followed by that of Childerc II‘s assassination in 675 allowed Pippin II to return to centre – stage politics in Austrasian politics. Pippin had by now married Plectrude. Dagobert II must have obstructed him in his endeavour. His return definitely also stopped Ebroin in his tracks. In c.679, in avenging the murder of his father Ansegisil, Pipin gave proof of his virtus by striking down Gunduin with his own hand. In the years 675—680, a good deal of political manoeuvring was under way. In Neustria - Burgundy, Ebroin resurfaced as the new Mayor of the Palace while in Austrasia the Pippinids had resurfaced at Childerics death. Into this mêlée Dagobert II returned. He wanted his rightful inheritance. A mysterious figure who may be involved in this feud is Wilfrid. During the middle 670's Wilfrid acted as middle man in the negotiations to return Dagobert II from his exile in Ireland to Gaul. Wilfrid had wintered in Frisia avoiding the diplomatic efforts of Ebroin, who according to Stephen attempted to have Wilfrid killed because of the assistance he gave to Dagobert II. During his stay Wilfrid attempted to convert the Frisians who were still pagan at that time. Wilfrid's biographer says that most of the nobles converted but the success was short-lived. After Frisia he stopped at the court of Dagobert II in Gaul where the king offered Wilfrid the Bishopric of Strasbourg which Wilfrid refused. Once in Italy Wilfrid was received by Perctarit, a Lombard king, who gave him a place at his court. This could relate to the next line in the poem 'dwelling in Frisia…‘.
Dwelling in Frisia
In the 7th and 8th centuries the Frankish chronologies mention the northern Low Countries as the kingdom of the Frisians. However these were probably not the Frisians of Roman times. This kingdom comprised the coastal sea land provinces of the Netherlands, from the Scheldt to the Weser and the German North Sea coast eastwards beyond. During this time, the Frisian language was spoken along the entire southern North Sea coast and, today, this region is sometimes referred to as Greater Frisia or Frisia Magna. The 7th-century Frisian realm (650-734) which was under the rule of kings Aldegisel and Redbad, had its centre of power in the city of Utrecht. Its ancient customary law was drawn up as the Lex Frisionum in the eighth century. Its end came in 734 at the Battle of the Boarn, when the Frisians were defeated by the Franks, who then conquered the western part up to the Lauwers. They conquered the area east of the Lauwers in 785, when Charlemagne defeated Widukind. The Carolingians laid Frisia under the rule of grewan, a title that has been loosely related to count in its early sense of "governor" rather than "feudal overlord". This Frisia Magna was partly occupied by Vikings in the 840s, until they were expelled between 885 and 920. It has also been suggested that the Vikings did not conquer Frisia, but settled in certain parts (such as the island of Wieringen), where they built simple forts and cooperated and traded with the native Frisians. One of their leaders was Rorik of Dorestad. Aldegisel (fl. c. 678) was the ruler of Frisia (as king or duke) in the late seventh century contemporarily with Dagobert II. He was a very obscure figure. All that is known of him is in relation to the famous saint that he harboured and protected, Wilfrid, but he is the first historically verifiable ruler of the Frisians. What the exact title of the Frisian rulers was depends on the source. Frankish sources tend to call them dukes but other sources often call them kings. Wilfrid, deposed from his Archdiocese of York, exiled from Northumbria and on his way to Rome to seek papal support, landed in Frisia in 678 and was warmly received by Aldegisel, who entertained him for several months over the winter, probably at Utrecht. According to Stephen of Ripon, Wilfrid's biographer, Aldegisel encouraged Wilfrid in his effective evangelism and "[the Frisians] accepted his [Wilfrid's] teaching and with a few exceptions all the chiefs were baptised by him in the name of the Lord, as well as many thousands of common people." It is possible that Aldegisel was one of the early converts. However it has been doubted whether Wilfrid was actually successful in Frisia, since there is no other evidence of the success of Christianity there before the work of Willibrord.
While Wilfrid was at Aldegisel's court, the Frankish mayor of the palace,Ebroin, offered a bushel of gold coins in return for Wilfrid, alive or dead. Aldegisel himself is said to have torn up and burned the letter from the Frankish mayor in front of the ambassadors and his household. It has been surmised by some that Aldegisel's kindness to Wilfrid was a mode of defiance of Frankish domination. His successor and possible son was Radbod, who followed the older pagan ways and was an enemy of Charles Martel. Just after this Frisia line in the poem it then goes on to talk and end with the assassination of Dagobert II at Stenay.
The feud that Dagobert II was witness to continued long after his death. With the rewriting of later charters and documents by the Carolingians with the sole purpose of excising any significant role by the Merovingians to continue to be Kings, the culmination of this feud was when the Carolingians managed to gain the support of the Papacy when they usurped that Royal power and prerogative. A usurpation from the position of 'servants‘ of the Merovingians to blood royal themselves! These are just a few interesting observations thrown up by picking out various lines in the poem. It would of course, be far more interesting, if we knew who the author was and what sources he was working from!