The German nobility purged. Clovis, instead of letting his royal kinsmen or other Frankish nobles become the French nobility, as he might possibly have done, actually disposed of "all possible rivals of his own race . . . . Having killed off his royal kinsmen, he was not likely to spare any Frank noble whose prestige was dangerous." 12Next Page
In Chapter III it was shown that the Germanic tribes were formed into a hierarchy of noblemen, freemen, and slaves. This had been true from time immemorial. Although it appears at first glance plausible, it is impossible to maintain that the invaders formed, even in the highest ranks, a solid clique which monopolized all the prestige appertaining to the conquest: the policy of Clovis was to strike terror among the Germanic nobles while leaning upon the docile, amiable, and suave Gallo-German nobles and their brothers, the clergy, for counsel, advice, and assistance. The conquest theory breaks down, therefore, because the conquerors were not united in language, were lacking in self-confidence, were divided in class structure, and were mutually distrustful of each other.
Over against the account of events by Dill one can place the following statement by Westermarck, who states: 13
The descendants of the German conquerors of Gaul were for a thousand years the dominant race in France, and until the fifteenth century all the higher nobility were of Frankish or Burgundian origin.
Dill's account, to be supplemented by others in this chapter to fill out the whole story of the conquest, reads: 14
In the slaughter of the Frank chiefs many others fell, any one, in fact, who was likely to challenge the title of Clovis. Clovis was mild and considerate to his Roman subjects, but ruthless to his Frank rivals and any possible pretenders to the throne. The cynical lament he made, that he was left alone among strangers . . . . His dynasty was destined, within a century from his death, to be undermined by a new aristocracy [made up in large and possibly in major part by Gallo-Romans] which it created, or which was evolved by social and official conditions of the age. But the old Teutonic noble class had almost vanished when Clovis had established his power . . . . The descendants of the old German families must have been sadly thinned by incessant wars, hardship, and disease.
The former statement, by Westermarck, is the familiar social class theory of conquest; the latter, by Dill, is the record of history.
However, one can judge that those who did remain powerful in public affairs (especially those outside the reach of Clovis, those German leaders in tribes which did not migrate far from their home grounds) were not barbarian adventurers of low status but were, as shown in the biographies of Runcimer, Bertram, and Guntram, "in native rank, the equal or superior of the greatest Roman nobles," as was stated specifically of Runcimer. 15 The age was in no way characterized by any appreciable number of upstarts.
Sorokin, on the contrary, states, although there is scarcely a reference to these things in documented history, that "a great many medieval slaves, brigands, serfs, and men of humble origin, in this way became nobles, masters, princes, dukes, high officials." 16 The same author refers to the "founders of the Merovingians and Carolingians, and their highest nobility," as having risen; whereas the royal blood of Clovis is know to all readers of history, and Fustel de Coulagnes goes to great pains to show that the "Carolingians belonged to the Merovingian aristocracy." 17
More proof of social class rigidity. The new nobility, formed during the hundred years of the Merovingians, was made up of educated Romans who took care of legal details, large landholders who had received titles from the central government, which titles became immediately hereditary, and other favored persons who rode with the kings on the hunt and stayed at his side in camp.
12. Ibid., p. 219.
13. Edward Westermarck, A Short History of Marriage (New York, 1926) p. 62.
14. Dill, op. cit., (7) p. 217.
15. Ibid., p. 18.
16. Sorokin, op. cit., p. 165.
17. N. D. Fustel de Coulagnes, Histoire des institutions politiques de l'ancienne France, vol. II (Paris, 1891) pp. 123 - 126.