« Sidonius Apollinaris, St Sigebert I Sigismundus, St »

Sigebert I

Sigebert (1) I., king of the Austrasian Franks (561–575), son of Clotaire I. by Ingundis (Greg. Tur. Hist. Franc. iv. 1). Scarcely had the four brothers buried their father at Soissons when Chilperic the youngest began the civil wars which desolated France. Seizing the royal treasure at Braine, near Soissons, and purchasing the support of the Franks, he occupied Paris. His three half-brothers leagued together and compelled him to make a fair division. To Sigebert fell the kingdom which had belonged to Theodoric I., i.e. the country occupied by the Ripuarian Franks and a part of Champagne, with Rheims for his capital, which division was now beginning to be known as Austrasia (Greg. Tur. iv. 21, 22; Hist. Epitom. lv.; Marius Aventic. ann. 560). To Sigebert fell also, on the death of Charibert I., as far as can be gathered from later events (see Greg. Tur. ix. 20), a third share of the city of Paris, the coast of Provence with Avignon, the former possessions of Theodoric I., in Aquitaine, the N. part of Brie, Beauce, Touraine, and Poitou (Richter, Annalen, 68; Bonnell, Anfänge des Karolingischen Hauses, Beilage, pp. 206 sqq.; Fauriel, Hist. de la Gaule Mérid. ii. 175–177). About this time he married the famous Brunichild (Brunehaut), a daughter of Athanagild, the Visigothic king in Spain, she having first renounced Arianism 901for orthodoxy (Greg. Tur. iv. 27; Venant. Fort. vi. 2, 3, Migne, Patr. Lat. lxxxviii. 204–209. For the character and accomplishments of this queen, who in later life became almost supreme in France, see also Fauriel, ii. 166 sqq.). The remainder of the reign was taken up with miserable civil wars between the brothers, in which Chilperic strove to capture parts of Sigebert's dominion; Tours and Poictiers, with their respective districts, being his principal object of attack. Two years running (A.D. 574–575) his armies overran those districts (Greg. Tur. iv. 46, 48). On the second occasion Gregory, after depicting the churches burnt and plundered, clergy killed, monasteries in ruins, and nuns outraged, uses these memorable words: "fuitque illo in tempore pejor in ecclesiis gemitus quam tempore persecutionis Diocletiani" (iv. 48. See too his outburst of indignation in c. 49). Sigebert recruited his forces with pagan Germans from beyond the Rhine (iv. 50, 51), and finally in 575, with the assistance of Guntram, carried his arms to Paris and Rouen, and while Chilperic was shut up in Tournay, was raised by his subjects on the shield and declared king in his place. At that very moment, however, he was struck down by assassins, probably emissaries of Fredegund (Greg. Tur. iv. 52; Marius Avent. Chronicon.; Venant. Fort. Miscell. ix. 2, Migne, u.s. 298 sqq.). He left a son of five years, Childebert II.

Sigebert was much the best of the sons of Clotaire. In happier circumstances he might have been a humane and enlightened king, but his misfortune was to reign at perhaps the darkest period of French history. His clemency towards Chilperic's son Theodebert, who had invaded his territory (Greg. Tur. iv. 23), his motives in seeking Brunichild's hand in marriage, as described by Gregory (iv. 27), and his intrepid attempts to restrain his barbarian trans-Rhenish allies from plundering (iv. 30), throw light upon his character. He was true to the orthodoxy of his race (iv. 27), and recalled St. Nicetius of Trèves from exile and appointed Gregory to Tours.


« Sidonius Apollinaris, St Sigebert I Sigismundus, St »
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