• Ben

Season 2, Episode 5: The Spare

Hey, hey! Welcome to 2021 and happy New Year to all of you listening out there! It’s exciting to be entering into T+M’s third calendar year of existence, so much so that I couldn’t wait to get the next episode out to you a few days early! Instead of Sunday, you get a fresh drop here on Friday the 1st; we hope to be in your ears as you work off the excitement of last night, or as you dig into some fresh projects and resolutions over the next three days of the long weekend, or as your start the drive home and head back after what we hope was an exciting, memorable and happy holiday season. With all of that said, let me ask that if you appreciate the show, the early drop, or you just want to start the New Year with some good karma, head on over to your podcast player of choice and leave T+M a rating and review; we can't think of a better way to start the new year off right. On top of that, I invite you to consider a resolution I myself have taken myself, and that is to head over to Patreon and support the artists you love or, if your podcasts have ads, simply take a few seconds to listen to them rather than hitting fast-forward. Creating content isn’t free; there’s an investment in software, mics, storage and distribution fees, but mainly, creating quality content is time-consuming. And there’s only a limited number of ways for us to get a return on that investment - and believe me, I don't think most of us are trying to get rich at this! So if you appreciate what you’re hearing and want to enable people to make more of it, well, support us, whether its reviews, listening to the ads, or donations. And what better time to start than at the turn of this new year? Like I said, I’m taking the plunge myself; you can check out who I’m a patron of through the link in the show notes, and you can rest assured that I too am listening to the ads, even if it's the 37th time I've heard Flo ask about the vermicelli game in town. You know, vermicelli? It’s a noodle? Anyway… the shameless plug is over; thank you to everybody who has already left a rating or who is a patron of their favorite podcast. Now, it’s time to get back to all of the scheming, backstabbing, betrayal and murder that we know you tuned in for! On with the show and on with 2021!

Brodulf was tired, bored and cold. He had been out all day, riding about after a deer he would never have the chance to take down himself. No, the sizable red hart that he and his group were riding after would belong to only one of them: the King.


Brodulf was riding alongside King Chlothar II, the elder monarch of the Franks, on this cold day. He liked to think he had earned this place of honor in the King’s hunting party thanks to his great military and political prowess, not to mention a bloodline he liked to boast stretched all the way back to Chlodio, the father of Merovech. In reality, most people in the King’s court would laugh out loud if they heard someone argue on his behalf for the notion of Brodulf as a reputable warrior or politician, and his claims to an ancient bloodline were openly mocked. No, he rode near the King for one reason and one reason only: his sister, Sichilde, had been the King’s concubine - and later, the King’s wife - for the past decade and a half. As such, Brodulf found himself in a luxurious accommodation and close to important people; as much as he wanted to think he was there because of his own merits, the real reason was because the King hadn’t been able to keep his hands off of Brodulf’s teenage sister.


At any rate, Brodulf had found his way into the Court, and he had to be put somewhere. For the Mayor of the Palace, the problem was not to find the brother of the King’s concubine a spot where he could excel, but rather, to find him a place where he could screw things up the least. With this in mind, it made sense to put the young man in the retinue of the most sidelined person at Court: the King. Brodulf rode with the monarch not as an honor, but rather, he rode with Chlothar because all of the truly important people at court, the ones exercising power, rarely had the time to go out riding on all-day hunts. They were needed to draft laws, to make battle plans, and to form alliances and treaties. Still, someone had to accompany the King, and Brodulf was of no other particular use, so... why not have him as the King’s hunting buddy?


This arrangement had held for years, with Brodulf and the King developing a relationship of sorts over time. Chlothar would recognize Brodulf as he walked around his palaces and villas, and the King would occasionally talk to his brother-in-law on a hunt if absolutely no one else were available to talk to. Ask Brodulf about their relationship, however, and he would tell anyone listening that he and the King were boon companions who had spent almost all of their time side-by-side. This boasting only grew when Sichilde had a son by the King, a boy named Charibert. As the uncle to the second in line to the throne, Brodulf had passed for most people from being a mildly amusing dolt to being an insufferable, pretentious bore. Amazingly, he lost none of his haughtiness over time, even when his sister was suspected of adultery and her lover was put to death. No, Brodulf had done just enough to re-shape his image from that of “brother of the Queen” to “uncle of the Prince” to avoid being too heavily tarnished by his sister’s scandal.


Anyway, on this cold day, none of these machinations really mattered. The hunt was everything to the King, especially as he had less and less to do with his advisors, and keeping his mind on the quarry and away from matters of state was all that counted. And this was easy for Brodulf: the Mayor and the key advisors kept him so far from any real politics or plans that he couldn’t possibly talk about them while with the King. Instead, he rode along quietly with the monarch as they chased the hart and helped the group to not lose the trail. Today’s beast was huge, and it felt like the stag may never give up the chase. Hearing the huntsman finally say that it was at bay was music to Brodulf’s cold, tired ears. He could almost feel the warmth of the fire he was going to fall asleep in front of that night and couldn’t wait for this stupid deer to be put out of his misery.


Brodulf was so busy imagining his fire that he barely took notice when the huntsman asked the King is he was feeling alright, but he most certainly took notice when Chlothar told the peon to mind his own business. But the peon was right: Chlothar’s face was a wonderfully high shade of crimson, so red as to look quite unnatural. Still, the monarch didn’t seem to be pausing from the hunt on account of his complexion, and there wasn’t anything Brodulf could do about it, yet at the same time he felt compelled to dismount and follow the King rather than simply watching the scene unfold. He was apparently alone in this urge, as the rest of the men in the hunting party chose to stay close together and on their mounts, staying as warm as possible.


Brodulf stayed a safe distance from the King as the elder man entered the clearing with the hart, intent on finishing the hunt. He would have tried to get closer, but the last thing he needed was to step on a twig or scare some bird from hiding, startling both the hunted and the hunter. No, Brodulf thought, I’ll just be right here, near enough to help if help is needed. And I’ll be the first one to congratulate the King on his trophy; he’ll like that, I reckon.


As these thoughts passed through his mind, Brodulf noticed that Chlothar was stumbling a bit, almost like he had been drinking. That’s odd, he thought. Chlothar doesn’t drink on the hunt. And why isn’t he raising his weapon? He’s just daring the beast to hurt him…


What happened next was a blur. The hart began to charge, as could be expected, but the King failed to raise his weapon even as the hart got closer. And then Brodulf saw it: the sword fell from Chlothar’s hand and the man began to sway backward. The King’s hands went to his chest as he fell; the hart, now nearly over the King, also seemed to sense something amiss and veered away from the collision, starting instead for the woods. Brodulf’s initial thought was to give chase, but the sound of the King’s body smacking the ground brought him back to his senses. He forgot about the deer, and began running to the King. Thanks to his position he arrived before everyone else, just in time to see the dying man’s lips moving ever so slightly. He leaned in to listen to this final message. Hearing nothing, he turned to look again at the face of the King; Chlothar was gone.


Brodulf sat next to the King as the others now approached. Seeing the immobile body and the quiet young man sitting next to it, these advisors knew the worst had happened. Yet, as they came near, Brodulf took to his feet. Now was his chance, his opportunity to go from uncle of a Prince to Regent of a King.


“I heard his last words as his soul departed this realm,” Brodulf claimed. “He said he wanted his lands looked after as they have been, with two Kings; one in Austrasia and one in Neustria. He wants both of his sons to share in the burdens of Kingship. He wants Dagobert to continue as the King of Austrasia, but wishes for his second son, Charibert, to assume the throne of Neustria in his place. Those were his dying words, spoken to me on this very spot. Did you not hear him?”


The two men, shocked by the sight of the King’s lifeless body before them, failed to answer.

“Let me ask the question in a different way,” Brodulf continued. “Would you rather explain to everyone why you were sitting on your horses well away from the King at the moment the monarch died, doing nothing to help him survive the onslaught of the hart, or would you rather tell the court that you were you so close at the end, doing your jobs properly as protectors of the King, as to hear the words he spoke to me at his last?”


The men, now fully understanding what was being asked of them, shook their heads in agreement. Given the choice between telling the truth and very likely incurring the wrath of the King’s family, or going along with Brodulf and ingratiating themselves with the man who would possibly be the uncle to the new King; well, the choice was obvious, both for purposes of self-preservation and career advancement.


With that, Brodulf staked his nephew Charibert’s claim to the Kingdom of the Franks. The old King had only just fallen and yet, within seconds of his demise, the Merovingian race to carve up his Kingdom had already begun. Brodulf struck first, and now headed back to the palace with the King’s body to solidify his plan. He knew it would only be a matter of time before Dagobert threw a counterpunch, and he had to be ready.


This is Thugs and Miracles.

Season Two, Episode 5: The Spare.

Alright, welcome back! As always, I’m Benjamin Bernier, and this week we’re going to take a look at Dagobert’s rise to power. Unlike his father, who, as we described last week, had to rely on luck, illness and his homicidal mother to take care of the seven siblings that had stood between him and the throne, Dagobert had a much more conventional route. However, this isn’t to say that he too didn’t share in a bit of luck and intrigue to take his place as the King of All the Franks, and as we’ll see, Dagobert himself was no less afraid than Fredegunda to kill whoever needed to get dead to get him to where he wanted to be.

Dagobert: A kinder, gentler King. Kinda...

So, when we’re looking at Dagobert’s ascension, let’s start with the first and most simple of the traits necessary to get him onto the throne: luck. You see Dagobert wasn’t the first-born, eldest son of Chlothar. That distinction actually belonged to a boy named Merovech. That child, however, didn’t live past 10: long story short, Merovech was taken prisoner by King Theuderic at the Battle of Étampes, one of the many battles of the Merovingian civil wars, and was murdered on Brunhilda’s orders.


(SIDE NOTE: I just want to take a second here to reflect on, ironically, how crap a name Merovech has been throughout our story, despite the name being the etymological root of the Merovingian dynasty. First off, the first Merovech, born of the sea-bull and such, may never have existed, based off of timelines and scant historic records of a person who should be fairly highly regarded. The next significant Merovech was Chilperic’s son, the one who Brunhilda married to free herself from prison in Rouen. She ultimately turned her back on him and sent him back to Neustria, where his father and step-mother, good ol’ Fredegunda, made short work of his life. Next up on our list is Chlothar II’s boy Merovech, as we’ve just discussed. There was also Moroveus, the great-grandchild of Brunhilda, who was captured alongside of his dad, Theudebert II, when that King lost in battle to his brother, Theuderic II. Moroveus is said to have still been an infant when he was killed, hit “so powerfully with a stone by Brunhilda that she made his head fly.” You heard that right: the kid’s great-grandmother not only killed him, but supposedly also scattered his brains. Finally, Theuderic II also had a son named Merovech, and he had named Chlothar II as the boy’s godfather. This worked out well for him when Theuderic’s family was captured following that King’s death; Merovech was the only member of the family Chlothar didn’t execute. However, nothing else was ever written about him and he’s probably lost to history forever, so we have no idea how short or long his life was. So, as a grand total just for the “Merovechs” up to this point, we have one who possibly didn’t exist, three who were personally executed or ordered dead by close family, and one who got shunted off into obscurity. At 0-5, this kinda makes me glad my parents went with Ben…)


Going back to the Merovech who was Dagobert’s older brother; well, his demise made it possible for Dagobert to get promoted from “spare” to “heir.” Dagobert was in no way responsible for this change; he just got to be the lucky recipient.


And this brings us to point #2: intrigue, which is where we began today’s episode. You see, whether or not things happened as quickly as I described in the opening story, the fact remains that in the Merovingian Dynasty, as with all hereditary dynasties, the angling to take the throne in the wake of the current King’s death begins the moment the body hits the floor. Realistically, it doesn’t even take death for the angling to begin. A current example of this can be seen in the Saudi Royal Family, where Muhammad bin Salman sits as the Crown Prince and heir apparent if and when his father, King Salman, passes from this world. Without going too deep into the details here, rest assured that MbS has been playing the game to position himself for the crown ever since his father took the throne. Also bear in mind, the House of Saud has used agnatic seniority, or the principle of succession wherein the order to the throne prefers the monarch’s younger brother over the monarch’s own sons, so MbS, at 31-years-old, was certainly nowhere near the most senior member of the House available when he was given the nod to be heir presumptive. On top of that, his father, the King, had actually removed one of his own brother’s, Muqrin, setting the conditions for a new generation of Saudis to take power when he named Muhammad bin Nayyef, cousin to Muhammad bin Salman, to the Crown Prince position. He later replaced bin Nayyef in favor of his son, complete with a show of good faith on Saudi television wherein the outgoing Crown Prince kissed the hand of the incoming heir, MbS. Nothing says “power move” like making someone kiss the ring on live television.


Well, there was no TV available back in 629, but that didn’t make the jockeying for power any less brutal. In the case of Chlothar II, he left behind two sons, Dagobert and Charibert. Dagobert, as we already know, had been named King of Austrasia and had been co-ruler along with his father since 623, but simply being the ruler of one part of the Kingdom didn’t necessarily entitle him to all of the kingdom once his father died. Or at least, that was the argument put forth by Brodulf, brother-in-law to Chlothar II and uncle of Prince Charibert. Brodulf was also, thanks to having two sisters, the brother-in-law of Dagobert, though this relationship doesn’t appear to have been very strong, especially once we see how events would play out. The bigger question for us, insofar as Brodulf’s relationships, has to do with Chlothar: How close were the two men? We have to assume that Brodulf held a fair amount of influence with the King, especially since the King made Dagobert return to Clichy, near Paris, to marry Sichilde’s sister. If Chlothar didn’t care for Brodulf, it seems very odd that he would show so much favor to the man by making him the brother-in-law of two kings, especially against Dagobert’s will. According to the Chronicles of Fredegar:


“In the 42nd year of the reign of Chlothar, Dagobert came by the order of his father with his lords... to Clichy, near Paris, and took in marriage the sister of Queen Sichilde, named Gomatrude. Three days after the marriage, a serious quarrel arose between Chlothar and Dagobert, his son. Dagobert asked for all that belonged to the Kingdom of Austrasia to submit to him and his domination, and Chlothar forcefully refused to give it to him. These two kings chose 12 lords from both sides of the Franks, so that their judgement would end this argument; among these lords was Arnulf, bishop of Metz, as well as other bishops... The bishops and the wise lords brought the son and father into agreement, ceding to him - Dagobert - what belonged to the Kingdom of Austrasia, keeping only that which was situated on this side of the Loire and on the side of Provence.”


Long story short, this passage tells us that Dagobert came to Clichy against his will, which also tells us that the marriage itself was likely not his idea. While I may seem to be overreaching at this point to come to this conclusion, I can tell you - without giving too much away in terms of narrative - that it would only be one year after Chlothar II’s death that Dagobert would put Gomatrude aside in favor of another Queen. If she had been a true love match, it seems unlikely that Dagobert would left her in such a manner, even if she was infertile as claimed. At any rate, this leaves us with a situation wherein Dagobert came to court to take part in an official act that would seem to have served only one family: that of Sichilde and Brodulf. Ironically, however, this is the first of several occasions where the history shows us that Brodulf was likely playing a form of political chess wherein he thought, with every move he made, that he was playing to a position that would be unbeatable, and each time he would be countered by Dagobert making a move that not only negated any advantage Brodulf had, but actually left him weaker than when he started.


To begin, the marriage brought Dagobert to Clichy and it tied him to Brodulf’s family, but the ensuing row between father and son led to a council that recognized that Dagobert’s claims to a larger share of Austrasia were legitimate, thereby vastly expanding the borders of the young King’s domain. This act also showed that the powers-that-be were willing to side against Chlothar, exposing a certain amount of weakness in the long-serving King. So going back to the chess analogy: Brodulf tied Dagobert to his sister in marriage, but did so at the cost of weakening the older King and ceding valuable territory.


And so we move forward to the death of Chlothar II and the non-existent will the King had left for the splitting of his estate. Brodulf had several things going in his direction with which to argue for control of the kingdom on behalf of his nephew, Charibert. First, the Queen Dowager was his sister, and her son could be expected to have a share of the Kingdom under the Merovingian tradition of splitting the territory upon the death of a monarch. Second, Brodulf exercised some amount of loyalty from men-at-arms within the Kingdom, so Dagobert’s right to the Kingship was far from assured. According to Jean-Charles Léonard de Simondi, an 18th century historian, “The grandees of Neustria were convoked at Soissons by Dagobert’s lords, but their assembly was but scanty. Whilst those who had repaired to that town acknowledged Dagobert, the others ranked themselves under the standards of Brodulf, chose Charibert for their king and formed an army for him in the southern provinces of the kingdom."


Here again, we see Brodulf make his move, and here again, we see Dagobert make his response. According to Fredegar:


“Dagobert, learning of the death of his father, ordered all of his Leudes who submitted to Austrasia to assemble an army; he sent some deputies to Burgundy and Neustria to elect a king. Coming to Reims and approaching Soissons, all of the bishops and all of the lords of the Kingdom of Burgundy submitted to him… Charibert, his brother, attempted to seize the kingdom; but, due to his stupidity, his attempt had little effect. Brodulf, his uncle, wanting to establish him on the throne, started to support him against Dagobert; but the event was otherwise decided. Dagobert, having taken possession of all of Chlothar’s kingdom, from Neustria to Burgundy, and having secured their treasuries, was finally touched by compassion and ceded Aquitaine to his brother Charibert. He confirmed this donation by treaty, so that Charibert, at no time, could reclaim from Dagobert any of the kingdom of his father. Charibert established his residence at Toulouse.”

Francia, 628; a lot of Dagobert and a sprinkling of Charibert

Long story short again, Brodulf made a move, and Dagobert brought an army. This isn’t to say that Brodulf’s attempt was entirely bad or misguided; he had a shot at power and he took it. His attempts ended up confirming the region of Aquitaine for his nephew, so in the end not all was lost. And it makes sense that later historians such as Fredegar, still writing under the banner of the Merovingians, would look to say largely positive things about the current regime and name-call the opposition. In that sense, claiming that Charibert was stupid for having stood up to Dagobert is as much a slight against Brodulf as it was Charibert. And come on: the kid was about 15 years old, give or take about five years, nearly a decade younger than his half-brother. He had none of the practical experience Dagobert had, and none of the connections to the senior advisors who were largely running the show. So to call Charibert stupid, despite maintaining a claim to any portion of the kingdom, seems a tad over-the-top to me.


However, now that Charibert has a piece of the pie, we have to ask how Brodulf responded. Well, for reasons unknown to history, but most likely as an attempt to fall back into Dagobert’s good graces, Brodulf was in the entourage as Dagobert set out to cross Burgundy to meet his subjects and dispense justice. That’s right: rather than staying in Aquitaine, where his young nephew now ruled as King, Brodulf decided his best play was to stay close to the Big King. Well, Brodulf clearly never saw The Wire, and clearly never heard the adage of “If you come at the King, you best not miss.” And he definitely did not take into account Dagobert’s sense of judgement or, if judging by these older sources, his bipolar attitude toward justice. Again from Fredegar:


“He Dagobert judged with such equity all of the leudes, the poor like the rich, that everywhere one looked at him as though all he did was agreeable to God; no present, no exception of persons could be brought to his side; the justice of the Most High Lord alone governed. Having thus gone to Dijon, and having passed several days in Saint-Jean-de-Losne, he established with great care for all of the people of his Kingdom; animated by this great desire, he neither ate nor slept, wanting for everyone to return from his presence having obtained justice. The same day that he wanted to leave Saint-Jean-de-Losne for Châlons, having entered in the bath before beginning his day, he ordered Brodulf killed, the uncle of his brother Charibert, by the dukes Amalgaire and Arnebert and by the patrician Willibade.”


Alright, on that note, we’re going to switch over to the third and final ingredient that Dagobert used to shore up his place as King: murder, and unsparing, unflinching violence. As we just saw, he was in no way afraid to order an execution, even if he was in the middle of taking part in what was ostensibly a feel-good tour across his new lands. And this wasn’t the first time Dagobert had used violence to meet his ends; two episodes ago we talked about the whipping and tonsuring of Duke Sadregisilius after the man disrespected the then-Prince at a dinner. Another case of disrespect came about in 624 when a man by the name of Chrodoald came to the King’s court and, for reasons unknown other than he himself was “very rich,” began to insult Dagobert. Now Dagobert would have killed him then and there, but Chrodoald managed to escape and ran back to King Chlothar. He convinced the older King to vouch for him, and Chlothar did, asking Dagobert to spare the rich man’s life. Dagobert said sure, as long as he apologizes and corrects his bad ways. And then he immediately had Chrodoald’s head taken from his shoulders when the man showed up at the door of the young King’s chambers. Clearly, angering the older King was not a consideration Dagobert worried himself with.


So we know that Dagobert was no shrinking violet when it came to the use of the sword, either in battle or in politics. However, he wasn’t entirely a madman, as can be seen by the fact that he treated his half-brother, Charibert, rather decently despite the transgressions of Brodulf. He carved out for him a piece of the Kingdom in Aquitaine, and also called on Charibert to come to Orléans and stand godparent to his child, Sigibert; Charibert is said to have raised the child from the baptismal font. These actions don’t come off in any way as a man who was looking to kill any and everyone who stood in the way of his increased power and territory.


However - and it seems like there’s always a “however” with Dagobert - Charibert fell ill in 631 and, rather anticlimactically, died. He left behind at least one child and perhaps as many as three. By right, Charibert’s kingdom should have been divided equally among his children, but there was no way Dagobert was going to stand by and allow a territory he allowed Charibert to hold to simply pass into the hands of regents over whom he had no control. Instead, in the kindest telling of the story, from Charles Oman: “He resumed his southern dominions, disregarding Charibert’s three sons.” In a slightly darker reading of events, de Mézeray notes: “Charibert was no sooner returned to Toulouse, but he died; and his son Chilperic who was yet in his cradle, survived him but a few days. It was suspected that Dagobert had contributed to the death of that innocent, to regain Aquitaine by seizure, as he presently did.” Finally, there’s a downright brutal telling of events, very reminiscent of Chlothar I and Childebert murdering their nephews to retake the territory of Clodomir after that early king’s demise in battle, with Simondi writing: “Dagobert immediately caused Charibert’s treasure to be seized, and his son, Chilperic, whom he left an infant, to be put to death. It is asserted that Charibert left two other sons... whom he had had by Gisela, daughter of Amand, duke of the Gascons; that they, protected by their maternal grandfather, escaped their uncle's snares, and afterwards recovered their father's inheritance.”


Now, even Simondi goes on to note that this last story was probably a part of some latter myth making on the part of future Dukes of Aquitaine, who wanted to draw their lineage back to a King and who were willing to say they descended from the boys Dagobert couldn’t kill. So we’re left in a situation wherein we see that, at best, Dagobert retook lands quickly and forcibly that were likely not his to take, and at worst he was a baby killer who would do anything for loot and plunder. As with so much of this early history, the truth of the matter almost certainly falls somewhere in the middle.


BON VOYAGE: Okay, we are going to stop there for the week, mainly because from this point on we’ll be looking at Dagobert as the King of All the Franks for the first time; what will he do with the power, now that he has joined the ranks of only Clovis, Chlothar I and Chlothar II in having ruled over the unified realm. But that’s for next time; before we go today, I’d like to wrap up with a quick discussion and Bon Voyage to two of the people who featured prominently in today’s episode, yet who tend to get short shrift, historically-speaking. These are Sichilde and Gomatrude, the sisters of Brodulf, the Queens to two Kings, and the mother to another. These two women, from what we can tell from the sources, were much less dynamic than other Queens we have explored up until this point such as Clotilde, Brunhilda and Fredegunda, but they serve as an example of how women were treated and used in the royal court at this time.


The older of these two women was Sichilde; according to historian Christian Bouyer, she was born in 590 and became concubine to Chlothar II at the age of 15. This little fact causes two issues: first, Chlothar is noted in multiple sources as having been upstanding and very righteous, only taking a new Queen after his previous wives had passed away. Which is a good story, except he apparently enjoyed a 15-year-old side piece for upwards of 14 years while his wife Bertrude, mother of Dagobert, was still very much alive.


The second issue that comes up is being able to tell Charibert’s age accurately. He is given about a ten year age gap in the sources, mainly due to no official decree of his birth having been given. It seems that he was born a bastard, and it likely wasn’t as important to claim him as a prince since the current Queen had a legitimate son in Dagobert. So for what it’s worth, we don’t know how old Charibert was, except to say he was between 15-25 years old when he died. At any rate, Sichilde stayed with Chlothar until Bertrude’s death (not that she likely had any real say in the matter), and was elevated to the Queenship in 619 when the position became available.


Now, relationships are tricky things, and there’s no telling what actually happened in the mid-620s between now-Queen Sichilde and a man named Boson, but to make a long story short, the pair were suspected of having an adulterous relationship in 626 and Boson was put to death by the King. There’s no record of a punishment having been inflicted on Sichilde, and she pretty much drops from the sources at this point. Whatever happened, the taint of adultery doesn’t appear to have made its way to Brodulf or Charibert. If I had to wager a guess, Sichilde was probably sent off to a convent, as the murder of a Queen would seem to be a salacious enough event to have made its way into the history.


Overall, Sichilde’s story is not particularly happy, but is also in line with how royal women have often been treated. She was chosen at a very young age to pleasure a King well her senior; she was elevated to the Queenship, almost certainly with the gleeful persuasion of her brother; and when, after 20 years in a relationship that began when she was 15, she finally took a lover of her own choosing, she got to know he was murdered and she herself was taken care of, one way or another. It doesn’t take much to hear the whispers of Katherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, floating about in this story.


The second Queen, Sichilde’s sister Gomatrude, doesn’t have a much happier story. Ordered into marriage with Dagobert, it had to have been awkward that she was the sister of the woman who had served as Dagobert’s father’s concubine for years, the woman who replaced his mother on the throne and who was also mother to his greatest rival in the succession. And it definitely wouldn’t have become any less awkward once Sichilde was charged with adultery a year after Gomatrude’s wedding. Again, it wouldn’t have been surprising if all of this drama would have been used as a way for Dagobert to get rid of Gomatrude and depose Charibert from the succession. Instead, he ended waiting three more years before he divorced Gomatrude on grounds of “infertility,” although I would be in no way surprised to find out that she was infertile more due to her husband’s lack of affection than any physical malady. One final note on this flawed marriage: Gomatrude was about five years older than Dagobert, give or take a few years; given the propensity for younger women at this time, as witnessed by the 15-year-old Sichilde, I can’t help but wonder if the age difference played a role on top of everything else. At any rate, once she was put aside by Dagobert, history has nothing more to say about her. We can only imagine what might have been the fate of an unloved, childless Queen, sister to another disgraced Queen and whose brother was executed by her husband, or what her thoughts may have been as she watched her husband, a man she was forced to marry, move off to take a “young girl of admirable beauty named Nantéchilde” as his bride. If there were ever a vote held for the person to whom history and fate were the most cruel, capricious and unfair, I’d say that Gomatrude would have to be in the running.

CONCLUSION: Alright, as we head off on that wildly happy note, heading into next week, Dagobert is the King of the Franks not just through the death of his father and the sheer lottery-esque luck of having been born the son of a King, but also through the death of his half-brother, the assassination of his brother-in-law, and the possible murder of his half-nephew. With all of that said, it’s worth noting that Dagobert’s consolidation of power was actually less bloody than every other King we’ve seen so far, all of whom had to win battles or lead prolonged campaigns against other family member’s territories to gain their position. Even the retribution Dagobert took against Brodulf - a simple, and perhaps offhand, command to have him assassinated - pales in comparison to how Chlothar II treated his main rival to the throne, Brunhilda, when he got his hands on her. And this sets the trend for Dagobert’s kingship; he is still playing hardball, no doubt, but overall we can see a difference beginning to emerge as the Frankish kingdom matures further and further. The fights are becoming less outwardly violent as the political structure becomes more complex. This certainly doesn’t mean it’s a touchy-feely type of environment, but brute force is becoming less of a factor as culture, law, and religion take on increased importance. Still, in a way, this will make it more difficult for the Kings yet to come. Instead of simply being able to succeed and thrive through brawn and strength, the leaders who will take center stage going forward will need to be smarter, more sophisticated and better connected. And as we’ll see, there are people who are able to meet these requirements; they’re just not always the King, and this is going to make for increasingly awkward situations between the monarchy and the aristocracy as we progress. For the next episode, however, we’re going to come back to Dagobert and look at the remainder of his reign now that he is firmly and solely in charge of the entirety of the three Kingdoms. We’ll look at his move to Paris and consolidation of power in this centralized city; we’ll explore his additions to the law, culture and religion, and also why he’s remembered as the bon Roi Dagobert in so many poems and songs (and even a few movies!). We'll also explore the contradictions and problems he posed, such as his proclivity for polygamy and the issues this started with the Church. In the end, will his positive acts outweigh his sins when we look at the totality of his reign? We’ll find out, next time.


OUTRO: Alright, as always, the music used for the show comes from Josh Woodward and includes his songs “Bully” and “Lafayette.” For a free download of these songs or hundreds of other great tracks, check out his site at joshwoodward.com. Notes on this episode, a list of sources, an updated monarchy/family tree, and also a list of other great history podcasts are all available online at thugsandmiracles.com. Be sure to sign up for our free e-mail list so we can keep you up to date with all things T+M and announcements on new shows. Speaking of email, you can write to us at thugsandmiracles@gmail.com, you can hit us on Twitter at @thugsandmiracle (with no “s” on the end), or you can leave a comment on Facebook and Instagram at @ThugsAndMiracles. Also be sure to check out the #TimeTravelTalks hashtag and account on Twitter, as well as HistoryPods.com and their associated Twitter handle, @podsofhistory. And if you haven’t already, as I asked of you in the intro, please take a moment to head over to your podcast player of choice and leave T+M a rating. We’d appreciate starting off 2021 strong and, as always, we appreciate you!


Okay, once again, my name is Benjamin Bernier, and I look forward to seeing you in two weeks - and it feels so good to be able to say this - in the year 2021, as we continue to explore Thugs and Miracles.