Front Matter France Long Ago The Gauls In France The Priests of the Gauls Sailor Stories Conquests of the Gauls Two Great Battles Caesar in Gaul Gaul under the Romans First Christian Martyrs Patron Saint of France Franks Come to Gaul The First Kings Conquests of Clovis Clotaire and His Relatives Two Rival Queens Good King Dagobert The Saracens Checked End of the Merovingians Charlemagne's Wars Charlemagne's Manners Charlemagne, Emperor Feudalism Troublesome Sons The Strassburg Oath Normans Besiege Paris Last of the Carolingians The Year One Thousand Robert's Two Wives Wealth of the Clergy The First Crusade A Love Story The Second Crusade More Crusades The Battle of Bouvines Blanche of Castile The Sixth Crusade The Reign of Louis IX Effect of the Crusades The Battle of the Spurs End of Knights Templar The Hundred Years' War The Siege of Calais The Battle of Poitiers Seven Years of Misery The Brave du Guesclin Achievements of Charles V Charles VI Misrule in France The Disgraceful Treaty Joan to the Rescue Orleans and Rheims Joan's Martyrdom Charles's Successes The Crafty King Louis XI Louis XI's Reign Achievements of Louis XI Charles VIII The Second Italian War Death of Louis XII Francis I Rivalry of Kings Achievements of Francis I End of Francis's Reign Reign of Henry II A Young King and Queen Catherine's Regency The Forced Wedding Massacre of the Huguenots Death of Charles IX An Effeminate King he Battle of Coutras The Murder of the Guises Winning a Crown Conversion of Henry IV Henry IV's Second Marriage Death of Henry IV The Minority of Louis XIII Rule of the Favorites Richelieu and Louis XIII End of Louis XIII's Reign Beginning of a Great Reign Wars of the Fronde Death of Mazarin Versailles The Iron Mask Louis XIV's Campaigns Madame de Maintenon Later Wars of Louis XIV The Spanish Succession The Age of Louis XIV

Story of Old France - Helene Guerber

Two Rival Queens

You have heard the story of the reigns of the first Merovingian kings in some detail, and therefore have a fair idea of the times in which they lived, and of the way in which these early rulers behaved. But it would be weary work to read as minute a history of all the kings of this race, whose names and dates you can find at the end of this book if you care to look them up.

Only a few interesting events happened in France during the next two centuries, by the end of which the Merovingians had ceased forever to occupy the throne. During that time the first kings were brave, and their successors were in turn cruel, revengeful, sly, and cowardly, each ruler sinking a little lower than the one who came before him.



Not many years after the death of Clotaire I., a deadly rivalry arose between his sons' wives, Brunhilda and Fredegonda. The former was a handsome, strong-minded Visigoth princess, who married Sigebert, king of Austrasia, shortly before her gentle sister was given as wife to his brother Chilperic, king of Neustria. The Neustrian monarch, however, soon grew tired of his meek wife, and she was strangled in her sleep by his order, so that he could marry her handmaiden, Fredegonda, one of the most wicked as well as most beautiful women in history.

In those days, some people who called themselves Christians yet believed it a sacred duty to avenge every injury received. Brunhilda no sooner heard of her sister's death than she urged her husband to attack his brother.

After a few years of warfare, Sigebert managed to gain possession of Paris, and was elected king of the Neustrian Franks. He was about to pursue his deposed brother. when he was stabbed by some murderers bribed by Fredegonda.

Brunhilda's husband being thus slain, she fell into Fredegonda's hands, and suffered great hardships before she managed to get back to Austrasia. There, and later in Burgundy also, Brunhilda became regent for her son, her grandsons, and her great-grandsons in turn, all of whom proved little more than puppets in her hands.

There is something fine and strong about Brunhilda. She was a wise woman, and made many improvements in the country, where an ancient road still bears her name; but her desire to avenge her sister's death and to harm Fredegonda kept her people in a constant state of warfare and turmoil.

Each year the hatred between the two queens became more bitter, and when Fredegonda, after murdering her stepsons and husband, became regent of Neustria for her infant son, the feud was worse than ever. During those years, when neither queen stopped at anything, Fredegonda generally managed to get the better of the quarrel. And when, after a long time, she found that she would die before she had wreaked all her hatred upon Brunhilda, she charged her son, Clotaire II., to carry out her wicked plans.

This king, having by treachery finally secured Brunhilda and her four great-grandsons, had two of these princes slain on the spot, shut the other two up in monasteries after shearing off their royal locks, and then proceeded to torture poor Brunhilda.

Although an old woman by this time, Brunhilda, the daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother of kings, was by his order mounted upon a camel,—like the meanest of criminals—and led through the camp, where the soldiers were encouraged to pelt her with mud, and to insult her in every possible way. After three days of torture and shameful treatment, she was finally tied, hair, hand, and foot, to the tail of a wild horse, which dashed through briers and over stones, until she was torn to pieces!