Childeric III, last of the Merovingians

The Last of the Merovingians by Evariste-Vital Luminais (1822-1896)

A weak king, whose lineage itself is questionable, Childeric III (c.717-c.754) was placed on the throne by the men known as the ‘mayors of the palace’, who by the eighth century held the power over the Merovingian line.

Together, Pope Zachary and one of the mayors of the palace, Pepin the Short, conspired to remove Childeric from the throne. In a deeply symbolic act, they had Childeric’s long, flowing hair cut. A Merovingian king’s hair was a crowning symbol of his majesty. Tonsured, he was visually transformed into a monk – and that was what they forced him to become.

Pepin the Short took the throne with the support of Pope Zachary. Pepin would be the father of Charlemagne. A shady background to the great Carolingian dynasty! Interestingly, the Carolingians began wearing their hair short. Perhaps they were trying to differentiate themselves from their predecessors. Or perhaps they were afraid someone might shave them and take away all their glory…

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