Pepin the Short[a] (German: Pippin der Kleine, French: Pépin le Bref, c. 714 – 24 September 768) was the King of the Franks from 751 until his death. He was the first of the Carolingians to become king.[b]
The younger son of the Frankish prince Charles Martel and his wife Rotrude, Pepin's upbringing was distinguished by the ecclesiastical education he had received from the monks of St. Denis. Succeeding his father as the Mayor of the Palace in 741, Pepin reigned over Francia jointly with his elder brother Carloman. Pepin ruled in Neustria, Burgundy, and Provence, while his brother Carloman established himself in Austrasia, Alemannia and Thuringia. The brothers were active in suppressing revolts led by the Bavarians, Aquitanians, Saxons, and the Alemanni in the early years of their reign. In 743, they ended the Frankish interregnum by choosing Childeric III, who was to be the last Merovingian monarch, as figurehead king of the Franks.
Being well disposed towards the church and Papacy on account of their ecclesiastical upbringing, Pepin and Carloman continued their father's work in supporting Saint Boniface in reforming the Frankish church, and evangelising the Saxons. After Carloman, who was an intensely pious man, retired to religious life in 747, Pepin became the sole ruler of the Franks. He suppressed a revolt led by his half-brother Grifo, and succeeded in becoming the undisputed master of all Francia. Giving up pretense, Pepin then forced Childeric into a monastery and had himself proclaimed king of the Franks with support of Pope Zachary in 751. The decision was not supported by all members of the Carolingian family and Pepin had to put down a revolt led by Carloman's son, Drogo, and again by Grifo.
As King, Pepin embarked on an ambitious program to expand his power. He reformed the legislation of the Franks and continued the ecclesiastical reforms of Boniface. Pepin also intervened in favour of the Papacy of Stephen II against the Lombards in Italy. He was able to secure several cities, which he then gave to the Pope as part of the Donation of Pepin. This formed the legal basis for the Papal States in the Middle Ages. The Byzantines, keen to make good relations with the growing power of the Frankish empire, gave Pepin the title of Patricius. In wars of expansion, Pepin conquered Septimania from the IslamicUmayyads, and subjugated the southern realms by repeatedly defeating Waifer of Aquitaine and his Basque troops, after which the Basque and Aquitanian lords saw no option but to pledge loyalty to the Franks. Pepin was, however, troubled by the relentless revolts of the Saxons and the Bavarians. He campaigned tirelessly in Germany, but the final subjugation of these tribes was left to his successors.
Pepin died in 768 and was succeeded by his sons Charlemagne and Carloman. Although unquestionably one of the most powerful and successful rulers of his time, Pepin's reign is largely overshadowed by that of his more famous son.
Assumption of Power
Pepin's father Charles Martel died in 741. He divided the rule of the Frankish kingdom between Pepin and his elder brother, Carloman, his surviving sons by his first wife: Carloman became Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia, Pepin became Mayor of the Palace of Neustria. Grifo, Charles's son by his second wife, Swanahild (also known as Swanhilde), demanded a share in the inheritance, but he was imprisoned in a monastery by his two half-brothers.
In the Frankish realm the unity of the kingdom was essentially connected with the person of the king. So Carloman, to secure this unity, raised the Merovingian Childeric to the throne (743). Then in 747 Carloman either resolved to or was pressured into entering a monastery. This left Francia in the hands of Pepin as sole mayor of the palace and dux et princeps Francorum.
At the time of Carloman's retirement, Grifo escaped his imprisonment and fled to Duke Odilo of Bavaria, who was married to Hiltrude, Pepin's sister. Pepin put down the renewed revolt led by his half-brother and succeeded in completely restoring the boundaries of the kingdom.
Under the reorganization of Francia by Charles Martel, the dux et princeps Francorum was the commander of the armies of the kingdom, in addition to his administrative duties as mayor of the palace.
First Carolingian King 
As mayor of the palace, Pepin was subject to the decisions of Childeric III who had only the title of King but no power. Since Pepin had control over the magnates and actually had the power of a king, he now addressed to Pope Zachary a suggestive question:
- In regard to the kings of the Franks who no longer possess the royal power: is this state of things proper?
Hard pressed by the Lombards, Pope Zachary welcomed this move by the Franks to end an intolerable condition and lay the constitutional foundations for the exercise of the royal power. The Pope replied that such a state of things is not proper. In these circumstances, the de facto power was considered more important than the de jure authority.
After this decision the throne was declared vacant. Childeric III was deposed and confined to a monastery. He was the last of the Merovingians.
Pepin was then elected King of the Franks by an assembly of Frankish nobles, with a large portion of his army on hand. The earliest account of his election and anointing is the Clausula de Pippino written around 767. Meanwhile, Grifo continued his rebellion, but was eventually killed in the battle of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in 753.
Pepin was assisted by his friend Vergilius of Salzburg, an Irish monk who probably used a copy of the "Collectio canonum Hibernensis" (an Irish collection of canon law) to advise him to receive royal unction to assist his recognition as king. Anointed a first time in 751 in Soissons by Boniface, archbishop of Mainz, Pepin added to his power after Pope Stephen II traveled all the way to Paris to anoint him a second time in a lavish ceremony at the Basilica of St Denis in 754, bestowing upon him the additional title of patricius Romanorum (Patrician of the Romans) and is the first recorded crowning of a civil ruler by a Pope. As life expectancies were short in those days, and Pepin wanted family continuity, the Pope also anointed Pepin's sons, Charles (eventually known as Charlemagne), who was 12, and Carloman, who was 3.
Expansion of the Frankish Realm
Pepin's first major act as king was to go to war against the Lombard king Aistulf, who had expanded into the ducatus Romanus. After a meeting with Pope Stephen II at Ponthion, Pepin forced the Lombard king to return property seized from the Church. He confirmed the Papacy in possession of Ravenna and the Pentapolis, the so-called Donation of Pepin, whereby the Papal States were established and the temporal reign of the Papacy officially began. At about 752, he turned his attention to Septimania. The new king headed south in a military expedition down the Rhone valley and received the submission of eastern Septimania (i.e. Nîmes, Maguelone, Beziers and Agde) after securing count Ansemund´s allegiance. The Frankish king went on to invest Narbonne, the main Umayyad stronghold in Septimania, but could not capture it from the IberianMuslims until seven years later in 759, when they were driven out to Hispania.
Aquitaine still remained under Waifer's Basque-Aquitanian rule, however, and beyond Frankish reach. Duke Waifer appears to have confiscated Church lands, maybe distributing them among his troops. In 760, after conquering the Roussillon from the Muslims and denouncing duke Waifer's actions, Pepin moved his troops over to Toulouse and Albi, ravaged with fire and sword most of Aquitaine, and, in retaliation, counts loyal to Waifer ravaged Burgundy. Pepin, in turn, attacked the Aquitanian-held (urban, non-Frankish 'Romans') Clermont and Bourbon, defended by Duke Waifer's Basque troops, who were overcome, captured and deported into northern France with their children and wives.
In 763, Pepin advanced further into the heart of Waifer’s domains and captured major strongholds (Poitiers, Limoges, Angoulême, etc.), after which Waifer counterattacked and war became bitter. Pepin opted to spread terror, burning villas, destroying vineyards and depopulating monasteries. By 765, the brutal tactics seemed to pay off for the Franks, who destroyed resistance in central Aquitaine (Waifer's capital city Bordeaux fell in 767) and devastated the whole region.
As a result, Aquitanian nobles and Basques from beyond the Garonne too saw no option but to accept a pro-Frankish peace treaty (Fronsac, c. 768). Waifer escaped but was assassinated by his own frustrated followers in 768.
Pepin died during a campaign, in 768 at the age of 54. He was interred in the Basilica of Saint Denis in modern-day Metropolitan Paris. His wife Bertrada was also interred there in 783. Charlemagne rebuilt the Basilica in honor of his parents and placed markers at the entrance.
The Frankish realm was divided according to the Salic law between his two sons: Charlemagne and Carloman I.
Historical opinion often seems to regard him as the lesser son and lesser father of two greater men, though a great man in his own right. He continued to build up the heavy cavalry which his father had begun. He maintained the standing army that his father had found necessary to protect the realm and form the core of its full army in wartime. He not only contained the Iberian Muslims as his father had, but drove them out of what is now France and, as important, he managed to subdue the Aquitanians and the Basques after three generations of on-off clashes, so opening the gate to central and southern Gaul and Muslim Iberia. He continued his father's expansion of the Frankish church (missionary work in Germany and Scandinavia) and the institutional infrastructure (feudalism) that would prove the backbone of medieval Europe.
His rule, while not as great as either his father's or son's, was historically important and of great benefit to the Franks as a people. Pepin's assumption of the crown, and the title of Patrician of Rome, were harbingers of his son's imperial coronation which is usually seen as the founding of the Kingdom of France. He made the Carolingians de jure what his father had made them de facto — the ruling dynasty of the Franks and the foremost power of Europe. Known as a great conqueror, he was undefeated during his lifetime.
Pepin married Leutberga from the Danube region. They had five children. She was repudiated some time after the birth of Charlemagne and her children were sent to convents.
In 741, Pepin married Bertrada of Laon. Her father, Charibert, was the son of Pepin II's brother, Martin of Laon. They are known to have had eight children, at least three of whom survived to adulthood:
- Charles (2 April 742 – 28 January 814), (Charlemagne)
- Carloman (751 – 4 December 771)
- Gisela (757–810)
- Pepin, died in infancy.
- Chrothais, died young, buried in Metz.
- Adelais, died young, buried in Metz.
- Brown, T.S. (1995). "Byzantine Italy". In McKitterick, Rosamond. The New Cambridge Medieval History, c.700-c.900. Vol. II. Cambridge University Press.
- Dutton, Paul Edward (2008). Charlemagne's Mustache: And Other Cultural Clusters of a Dark Age. Palgrave Macmillan.
- Enright, M.J. (1985). Iona, Tara, and Soissons: The Origin of the Royal Anointing Ritual. Walter de Gruyter.
- Lewis, Archibald R. (2010). The Development of Southern French and Catalan Society, 718–1050. THE LIBRARY OF IBERIAN RESOURCES ONLINE.
- Riché, Pierre (1993). The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe. Translated by Allen, Michael Idomir. University of Pennsylvania Press.
- Schulman, Jana K., ed. (2002). The Rise of the Medieval World, 500-1300: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Press.
- Tucker, Spencer C., ed. (2011). A Global Chronology of Conflict. Vol. I. ABC-CLIO.
- ^Even more rarely his name may be spelled "Peppin".
- ^He wore his hair short, in contrast to the long hair that was a mark of his predecessors.
The first king of the Frankish Carolingian dynasty and the father of Charlemagne. A son of Charles Martel, Pepin became sole de facto ruler of the Franks in 747 and then, on the deposition of Childeric III in 751, king of the Franks. He was the first Frankish king to be anointed--first by St. Boniface and later (754) by Pope Stephen II.
Background and kingship.
For years the Merovingian kings had been unable to prevent power from slipping from their hands into those of the counts and other magnates. The kings were gradually eclipsed by the mayors of the palace, whose status developed from that of officer of the household to regent or viceroy. Among the mayors, a rich family descended from Pepin of Landen (Pepin I) held a position of especial importance. When Charles Martel, the scion of that family, died in 741, he left two sons: the elder, Carloman, mayor of Austrasia, Alemannia, and Thuringia, and Pepin III, mayor of Neustria, Burgundy, and Provence. No king had ruled over all the Franks since 737, but to maintain the fiction of Merovingian sovereignty, the two mayors gave the crown to Childeric III in 743. (See mayor of the palace.)
Charles had had a third son, however--Grifo, who had been born to him by a Bavarian woman of high rank, probably his mistress. In 741, when his two brothers were declared mayors of the Franks, Grifo rebelled. He led a number of revolts in subsequent years and was several times imprisoned. In 753 he was killed amid the Alpine passes on his way to join the Lombards, at this time enemies of the Franks as well as of the papacy.
Numerous other rebellions broke out. In 742 men of the Aquitaine and Alemannia were in revolt; in 743 Odilo, duke of Bavaria, led his men into battle; in 744 the Saxons rebelled, in 745 Aquitaine, and in 746 Alemannia, both the latter for the second time.
In 747, when Carloman decided to enter monastic life at Rome, a step he had been considering for years, Pepin became sole ruler of the Franks. But Pepin was ambitious to govern his people as king, not merely as mayor. Like his father, he had courage and resolution; unlike his father, he had a strong desire to unite the papacy with the Frankish realm. In 750 he sent two envoys to Pope Zacharias with a letter asking: "Is it wise to have kings who hold no power of control?" The pope answered: "It is better to have a king able to govern. By apostolic authority I bid that you be crowned King of the Franks." Childeric III was deposed and sent to a monastery, and Pepin was anointed as king at Soissons in November 751 by Archbishop Boniface and other prelates.
Pepin and Pope Stephen II.
The pope was in need of aid. Aistulf, king of the Lombards, had seized Ravenna with its lands, known as the exarchate. Soon, Lombard troops marched south, surrounded Rome, and prepared to lay siege to its walls. So matters stood when in 752 Zacharias died and Stephen II became pope. In November 753 Pope Stephen made his way over the stormy mountain passes to Frankish territory. He remained in France until the summer of 754, staying at the abbey of Saint-Denis, Paris. There he himself anointed Pepin and his sons, Charles and Carloman, as king and heirs of the crown. (See Italy, history of.)
The pope returned to Italy accompanied by Pepin and his army. A fierce battle was fought in the Alps against Aistulf and the Lombards. The Lombard king fled back to his capital, Pavia; Pepin and his men plundered the land around Pavia until Aistulf promised to restore to papal possession Ravenna and all the Roman properties claimed by the pope.
Aistulf broke his word. Again and again Pope Stephen wrote to Pepin of his difficulties. In 756 the Frankish king once more entered Italy. Aistulf was once more constrained to make promises, but the same year he died--of a fall from his horse--and in April 757 a new king, Desiderius, became ruler of the Lombards. That year Stephen II also died, and Paul I was elected pope. He, too, constantly wrote to Pepin asking for help.
But the King of the Franks had other concerns. He had to put down revolts in Saxony in 748 and 753 and a rising in Bavaria in 749. He was continually marching against rebellious Aquitaine. In 768 Pepin died at Saint-Denis, on his way back from one of his Aquitainian expeditions.
Pepin is remembered not only as the first of the Carolingians but also as a strong supporter of the Roman Church. The papal claims to territory in Italy originated with Pepin's campaigns against Aistulf and the latter's pledge to return the Roman territories. His letters also show him calling for archbishoprics in Frankish territory, promoting synods of clergy and layfolk, and as deeply interested in theology.
Pippin was crowned at Soissons in 11-751 and consecrated King at St. Denis in 754 by Winfred (St. Boniface, b. ca. 675 in Devonshire, England, a monk who was commissioned by the pope to work in Germany, murdered in 754 by pagans, called the Apostle to the Germans; his consecration of Pippin was approved by the pope, wherein the church
acknowledged his royal title and which Pippin rewarded by establishing the temporal power of the papacy). He extended
Austrasian power beyond the Rhine and the Pyrenees, and his alliance with the church opened the way for restoration of
the western empire (achieved by his son, Charles the Great). Pippin was the first king of the new monarchy which
would take its name (Carolingian) from his great son (Carolus = Charles). A younger son, Carloman, received the southern half of his domains, but on Carloman's death in Dec. 771 Charles siezed these lands.
1Bertha of Laon
Birthabt 720, Laon, Aisne, France
Death12 Jul 783, Choisy, Haute-savoie, France
BurialSt Denis, Paris, Seine, France.
FatherCount Canbert of Laon