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Pepin [1]

is the name of several distinguished members of the Carlovingian line of French kings. The first of them in order was Pepin The Old or "Pepin de Landen," who flourished in the first half of the 7th century. The only one, however, whose history concerns us especially here is the third of the Pepins, whose name was Pepin Le Bref i.e. "Pepin the Short," and who was really the first king of France. He was the younger son of Charles Martel, who, on the death of his father in 741, received Neustria and Burgundy; Austrasia, Thuringia, and Suabia being the heritage of his elder brother Carloman. Aquitaine was nominally a part of Pepin's dominions, though really independent under its own duke, whom Pepin made several ineffectual attempts to subdue. The farce of governing the country in the name and as the chief minister, or, as he was called, "Mayor of the Palace," of the Merovingian sovereign, which had begun under Pepin of Heristal, was still kept up, though Pepin was eagerly longing for an opportunity to assume the crown, but the opportune moment did not come until 747, when Carloman bade adieu to power, and retired into a convent, leaving his government to his sons. Pepin immediately dispossessed them. After crushing a rebellion of Saxons and Bavarians, Pepin determined to effectually establish his royal power by dispossessing the Merovingian dynasty of even the semblance of authority, and of originating in person a new royal dynasty.

To gain his point he flattered the clergy, then the most influential body in France; and as they had been despoiled by Charles Martel for the behoof of his warriors, a moderate degree of kindness and generosity on the part of Pepin contrasted him so favorably with his father that the clergy at once became his partisans. So did the pope (Zacharias), who felt the importance of securing the aid of the powerful Frankish chief against the Lombards, who were then masters of Italy, and to stop the progress of the Saacens, who now spread as far as the south of France. He therefore released the Franks from their oath of fidelity to Childeric, the Merovingian monarch; which intelligence, when brought to Pepin, at once caused him to complete the dethronement of Childeric by having his long hair shaved off, which was an essential characteristic of royalty with the Merovingian kings, and to confine him in a monastery, where he died in 755, and had himself elected king by the assembly of estates at Soissons, and consecrated by the bishop of Mayence in March, 752. In 754 the pope himself (Stephen II) appeared for Pepin, and gave his sanction to the election and consecration; and, in order to give further effect to Pepin's authority, consecrated him anew to his high dignity in the church of St. Denis at Paris. Apparently the action had significance only for Pepin's subjects. It soon proved, however, that these solemn ceremonies had put the crown under great obligations to the Church, or, better, the papacy; and that, though at this time the pope came to favor the king, and to ask for help to maintain his temporal sovereignty, the day came when the clergy claimed to have secured political rank in the state by Pepin's coronation at their hands. (See Investitures); (See Temporal Power Of The Pope).

Pepin accompanied the pontiff to Italy at the head of a large army, to establish firmly, in turn, the papal authority. He waged war against Astolphus, the Lombard king, obliged him to raise the siege of Rome, and not only compelled him to. abandon all pretensions to the city and the exarchate of Ravenna, but took from a him several cities which had formerly belonged to the, Greeks, and handed them over to the pope. Another expedition was rendered necessary in A.D. 755 by the revolt of Astolphus, who was again subdued by the champion of the Church. He also obtained a signals victory over the Saracens, reunited Aquitaine to his kingdom, and waged successful war against the German princes. Pepin le Bref died in the year 768, and was succeeded by his son Charlemagne. It is admitted by late historians that this change of dynasty was coincident with the elevation of the eastern Franks, whose fresher energy, guided by the chiefs of the Pepin family, enabled them to push upward to the seat of government, and take the place of their feebler kindred. (See France) and (See Lombards) for the necessary literature for a correct understanding of the establishment of the Gallic nation.