The Ax and the Vase
rex ex nobilitatedux ex virtute
King through noble birth ... commander through right of virtue.
“Let us set out the beginnings of the kings of the Franks and their origin, and also the origins of the people and its deeds ... Priam and Antenor, two Trojan princes, embarked on ships with twelve thousand of the men remaining from the Trojan army. They came to the banks of the Tanis River. They sailed into the Maeotian swamps, penetrated the frontiers of the Pannonias, and began to build a city as their memorial. They called it Sicambria, and lived there many years, growing into a great people.”
--Liber Historiae Francorum, author(s) unknown.
The Ax and the Vase tells the story of Clovis I, the first Catholic king in Europe,
founder of the the Merovingian Dynasty, the king who gave birth to the nation of France.
At fifteen, Clovis begins his reign with ambition not shared by the seasoned men of his father’s stockade. He falls in love with the beautiful Evochilde, who dies giving Clovis his first heir, his son Theuderic. His sister Audofleda marries Theodoric the Great, and Clovis begins to form his power base to increase his domain.
Counseled by his father’s steward, Cholwig, and beside his cousins Ragnachar and Pharamond, Clovis plans and prepares though the first five years of his reign. His first battle is pitched at Soissons against Syagrius, the last Roman governor in Gaul. Clovis takes the day and the Roman, executing the governor in a decisive display of authority … and banishing Roman rule from Gaul. And yet, from the beginning, his alliance with Rome’s Church in the person of the great Bishop, Remigius of Rheims, will color and influence every fiery facet of his reign.
As he continues a career of conquest, his comes Ragnachar becomes a scandal, and in another show of will which passes into legend, before the world, Clovis punishes the soldier who is the object of Ragnachar’s affection. He cannot yet punish his own cousin, but the message is clear and the scandal is—for a time—neutralized.
Pharamond brings the Burgundian princess Clotilde hoping to make her queen. Clovis has concerns about marrying a Catholic, but he is drawn to her, and in some ways to her Church. Her ascension in his rule and in his heart change the course of history itself.
Yet it is not always calm between them. Their first son, Ingomer, dies after she has the infant baptized, and Clovis excoriates her for anointing their child to her G-d against his will. They have three more princes and then a daughter, the princess Chrotilde, named for her mother.
It is on the field of battle that Clovis at last vows to commit his life to Christ, if he can turn the tides of apparent defeat. Once again he wins the field, and the Church at last claims its greatest convert. In the glory of his conversion, the politics of his choice quickly come home. Conflict again arises with those who maintain the old ways.
Once converted, and finding relations even with his own former allies deteriorating, Clovis turns to betrayal to increase his domains, always skirmishing to hold those he has.
Seeing to the rearing of four royal princes, and with his eldest son Theuderic growing up, Clovis begins in earnest to lay the foundation of his legacy. He and his queen found cathedrals and schools. He arranges the territorial inheritances of his four sons, and sets down the Salic law for his diverse subjects, bringing together Frankish traditions and Roman administration in a code which will survive for centuries.
The alliance with Theodoric the Great, never strong, dissolves when Audofleda, dies. Ragnachar falls at last. Theuderic has begun to govern in his own right, marrying and beginning a family of his own. Alaric having fallen to his sword, Clovis betrothes his daughter Chrotilde to the Visigothic heir and claims a new alliance.At last, in what would be the final years of his life, Clovis has Remigius baptize him. This new consecration sets the precedent of divine right, and confirms the future of Europe.
His death comes quietly, without conquest nor violence,
before the fire in his palace at the capital he proclaimed, the great city of . His reign has spanned thirty years, and given rise to the Merovingian Dynasty ... to Christendom itself ... and to the nation of France.