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Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Bettye Johnson ©

I been asked a number of times the following question: “Wasn’t the bloodline of Mary Magdalene and Jesus carried down through the Merovingians?’

There are many variations to the story of the Merovingians and after researching this dynasty of their kings, I find it a challenge to accept most of the posted and published information about them. I came across an excellent book, The Birth of France: Warriors, Bishops and Long-Haired Kings by Katharine Scherman. For me, Scherman ‘s research is comprehensive and it brought to me a greater understanding of the Merovingians and that period of history.

First, who were the Merovingians? Second, from whence did they come? The origins of the Merovingian dynasty came from the Franks (a tribe of Celts) – or the Germans. In the first century A.D., Gaius Cornelius Tacitus wrote, The Germans I regard as aboriginal, and not mixed at all with other races. Who would leave Asia, or Africa, or Italy for Germany, with its wild country inclement skies, its sullen manners and aspect, unless indeed it were his home?

In 241 A.D. historian Flavius Volpiscius gave these tribes the name of “Franks”. There are some unsubstantiated reports that one of the tribes was the Sicambrians also known as the Salians from which the Merovingians emerged. There are so many mixed reports that it is difficult to separate myth from facts. To understand the rise of the Merovingians, I suggest keeping the perspective that the Catholic Church became their mentors or allies during their rise to power.

During this period of time called the Dark Ages, there were many small Frankish tribes in addition to the many Celtic tribes further south. The Romans had extended their rule of Gaul, which included Germany on the west bank of the Rhine River, western Switzerland, Belgium, parts of Holland, and present day northern France and Italy. Each tribe had a council of elders from which was elected a chieftain. Sometime in the early fifth century, a Frankish chieftain named Faramund married a woman whose name is supposedly Argotta. There are reports she was a princess, however that is stretching it a bit because these small tribes had no royalty per se. When I began researching the origins of the Merovingians, I began to see many variations and genealogies. I am not at all sure that the genealogy I am citing is correct. There were no written records and most of it comes from legend possibly perpetuated by Gregory of Tours, a Catholic bishop of the sixth century. It was Gregory of Tours who wrote most of the known history of the Merovingians.

Clodion was the son of Faramund (also spelled Pharamund) and Argotta. Clodion’s rule began around 428 A.D. and he is credited with creating the longhair dynasty. It was the hairstyle of the Frank men. When the Romans began to inhabit parts of Gaul, their hairstyle was short and more and more of the Frankish men began cutting their longhair and emulating the Romans. It wasn’t until the sixth century that Gregory of Tours noted in his writing that it had become symbolic of the Merovingian rulers and had now become exclusive only to the men of this dynasty. If one of the male heirs stepped out of line, his hair was cut and he was no longer eligible for succession. Of course, in some instances it was noted that the hair could be re-grown long. This practice became identified with the Merovingians and has come down in history to be known as the “Long-Haired Kings.”

After Clodion, the next king to be recorded was Merovech. As the legend goes, Clodion’s wife went to the sea to bathe and was attacked by a sea monster and gave birth to Merovech. Other myths say she was a mermaid. Some reports state there were two fathers who sired the son named Merovech. Scherman writes, It is impossible to pinpoint pre-fifth-century individuals of this family that was to become supreme. The Frankish settlements were still transitory and their political arrangements changeable.

Purportedly, Merovech had an older brother whose name has been lost in history. Roman history records that Merovech went to Rome after the death of Clodion and asked for support for his succession to the kingship. The brother had gone to Attila the Hun asking for his support. Merovech won out. After the death of Merovech, his son, Childeric I became the next ruler in the Merovingian dynasty.

Childeric I was known to have a sexual appetite that was considered unwholesome even by the standards of his time. This characteristic was handed down to his descendents. At this time he was considered a chieftain and not a king. A group of his subjects demanded his abdication due to his over excessive debauchery and he was given sanctuary by another branch of Frankish tribes. Gregory of Tours wrote of Childeric I, “His private life was one long debauch.” A Roman aristocrat from a Gallo-Roman family became the chieftain and when he died, Childeric returned and was restored to power in 464 A.D. It was a century later that Gregory of Tours gave him the title of King.

Clovis I was a son of Childeric and is credited with the beginning of the Merovingian aristocracy. He was a warrior who won his battles and is said to have created a unified Frankish confederation. Clovis came to power around 481 A.D. He married a Christian woman who after some years converted him to Christianity. This queen was named Clotild and having been educated as Catholic was devout as one. Before the marriage, Clovis had mistresses and one was the mother of his eldest son. The rule of succession could pass to a son whose mother was not the legal wife. All sons were considered equal and when Clovis died, his kingdom was divided among his four sons.

It is alleged that the bloodline of Mary Magdalene and Jesus has been handed down through the Merovingians. A mystique has grown up around the term “Long-Haired Kings” and the Merovingians were said to have magic powers. There are several instances cited of magic power and one was Guntram of Burgundy, a grandson of Clovis I.

In 588, the plague had spread to Europe and reached Marseilles. When Guntram heard of this when he went south for a three-day supplication ceremony of Rogations, (a ceremony of prayer). He urged those participating to eat and drink only wheaten bread and pure water. Those who took his advice found it worked and there is a report of one woman who took a thread from his cloak and put it in water. She fed this to her ill and dying child and the child became well.

If one were to describe the offspring of Clovis I and the subsequent Merovingian dynasty, the adjectives of violence, deceit, treachery, greed, vice, debauchery, despotic, jealousy, ruthless, fratricidal and prone to murder each other are only a few along with military prowess, courage and cunning. They managed to rule because they were willing to create laws that were considered wise for the people they ruled and they were fierce warriors. Other than Clovis I, most of the Merovingian kings only gave the Catholic religion lip service. As the descendents were killing off each other, the remaining male survivors were small boys and their mothers were their regents who ruled as wise as they could in the climate of others wanting to take over their realms. Many of the queens were lowborn having been servants or slaves. The Catholic Church frowned upon having their kings to be literate. The Church could exert more control over an illiterate king.

It had become a practice to punish disobedient young princes and princesses by forcing them to be committed to holy orders. The Church benefited from this along with the monies given to them into outrageous proportions of wealth, immorality from the licentious parish priest to the intrigues of the bishops. Thus, the dynasty of the Merovingians began to weaken until in the end. All of the mature Merovingian kings had been murdered or died from other causes. The last sustainable king was Dagobert who died in 639 A.D. The Mayors of the Palace who were the majordomos or the second in command became the powers behind the thrones. With the Merovingian kingdom having been divided up among the offspring, the two most powerful areas were Austrasia, which at that time was northern France with its center being Cologne and Mainz. The second most powerful area was Neustria, which is present-day northwest France, each with its own Mayor of the Palace. Mayors of the Palace quarreled among themselves and often perpetuated the tainted Merovingian legacy. The young Merovingian kings became puppets. The end of the great Merovingian dynasty was a tangled web that added nothing to their reputations. The regent queens relied upon the Mayors of the Palace.

After years of fighting, one Mayor of the Palace, Pepin the Younger emerged as the most powerful. He began as the Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia and gained control Burgundy and Neustria where he placed two of his sons as the Mayors of the Palace. Thus began the dynasty of Pepin emerging into Charlemagne and the Carolingians.

It does not appear from their history that there has been any connection to Mary Magdalene and Jesus or their lineages to the Merovingians. It has also been alluded to that the line of Mary Magdalene could have come through the Visigoths. The Visigoths appeared in Spain and France in the fifth century and there is no documentation that I have found that can be considered valid.

Therefore, can one accept that a claim to the lineage of Mary Magdalene and Jesus through the line of the Merovingians is valid? I am reminded of a family story when I was growing up. I was told that one of my Texas ancestors was the first governor of Texas after it joined the Union. Years later my brother was into genealogy of our family and he told me ruefully that no, our ancestor had not been the first governor of Texas because he had no children. So much for that claim! As with so many events in the fluidity of history, this could be another lie perpetuated upon the world. May the truth always be revealed and ignorance becomes knowledge.