Carloman (mayor of the palace)

Last updated
Charles Martel divise le royaume entre Pepin et Carloman.jpg
Charles Martel divides the realm between Pepin and Carloman.
Died17 July or 17 August 754 (aged 40-41)
Resting place Abbey of Monte Cassino
41°29′24″N13°48′50″E / 41.49000°N 13.81389°E / 41.49000; 13.81389
Known for Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia, Duke of the Franks

Carloman (between 706 and 716 [1] – 17 August [2] 754) was the eldest son of Charles Martel, majordomo or mayor of the palace and duke of the Franks, and his wife Chrotrud of Treves. On Charles's death (741), Carloman and his brother Pepin the Short succeeded to their father's legal positions, Carloman in Austrasia, and Pepin in Neustria. He was a member of the family later called the Carolingians and it can be argued that he was instrumental in consolidating their power at the expense of the ruling Merovingian kings of the Franks. He withdrew from public life in 747 to take up the monastic habit, "the first of a new type of saintly king," according to Norman Cantor, "more interested in religious devotion than royal power, who frequently appeared in the following three centuries and who was an indication of the growing impact of Christian piety on Germanic society". [3]

Charles Martel Frankish military and political leader

Charles Martel was a Frankish statesman and military leader who as Duke and Prince of the Franks and Mayor of the Palace, was the de facto ruler of Francia from 718 until his death. He was a son of the Frankish statesman Pepin of Herstal and Pepin's mistress, a noblewoman named Alpaida. Charles successfully asserted his claims to power as successor to his father as the power behind the throne in Frankish politics. Continuing and building on his father's work, he restored centralized government in Francia and began the series of military campaigns that re-established the Franks as the undisputed masters of all Gaul. According to a near-contemporary source, the Liber Historiae Francorum, Charles was "a warrior who was uncommonly ...effective in battle". Much attention has been paid to his success in defeating an Arab raid in Aquitaine at the Battle of Tours. Alongside his military endeavours, Charles has been traditionally credited with a seminal role in the development of the Frankish system of feudalism.

Majordomo head servant

A majordomo is a person who speaks, makes arrangements, or takes charge for another. Typically, this is the highest (major) person of a household staff, a head servant who acts on behalf of the owner of a large or significant residence. Synonyms include castellan, concierge, chamberlain, seneschal, mayor of the palace, curopalate, maître d'hôtel, head butler, and steward.

Under the Merovingian dynasty, the mayor of the palace or majordomo was the manager of the household of the Frankish king. The office existed from the sixth century, and during the seventh it evolved into the "power behind the throne" in the northeastern kingdom of Austrasia. In 751, the mayor of the palace, Pepin the Short, orchestrated the deposition of the king, Childeric III, and was crowned in his place.


Assumption of power

After the death of Charles, power was not divided to include their half-brother Grifo, Charles' son by his second wife Swanachild. This was per Charles' wishes; although Grifo demanded a portion of the realm, his brothers refused him. In 741, Carloman and Pepin besieged Grifo in Laon, took him captive and forced him into a monastery. Each brother turned his attention towards his own area of influence as majordomo, Pepin in the West (in what was called Neustria, roughly the area between Nancy and Reims) and Carloman in the East (in what was called Austrasia, roughly the area between Bruges, Metz and Fulda), which was the Carolingian base of power.

Grifo (726–753) was the son of the Frankish major domo Charles Martel and his second wife Swanahild.

Swanachild was the second wife of Charles Martel, who brought her back from his first campaign in Bavaria in 725, along with her uncle Grimoald's wife, Biltrude. Swanachild belonged to the clan of the Agilolfings though her parentage is not quite clear. Her parents could be:

The Siege of Laon was a Frankish siege of the rebel Grifo's fortified city of Laon in 741. The Frankish army under the Mayors of the Palace, the brothers Carloman and Pepin the Short, besieged the fortress and took Grifo, the Mayors' half-brother, captive.

With Grifo contained, the two mayors, who had not yet proved themselves in battle in defence of the realm as their father had, on the initiative of Carloman, installed the Merovingian Childeric III as king (743), [4] even though Martel had left the throne vacant since the death of Theuderic IV in 737.

Childeric III King of Francia

Childeric III was King of Francia from 743 until he was deposed by Pope Zachary in March 751 at the instigation of Pepin the Short. Although his parentage is uncertain, he is considered the last Frankish king from the Merovingian dynasty. Once Childeric was deposed, Pepin the Short, who was the father of emperor Charlemagne, was crowned the first king of the Franks from the Carolingian dynasty.

Theuderic IV Frankish king

Theuderic IV or Theuderich, Theoderic, or Theodoric; in French, Thierry was the Merovingian King of the Franks from 721 until his death in 737. He was the son of king Dagobert III.

Unlike most medieval instances of fraternal power sharing, Carloman and Pepin for seven years seemed at least willing to work together; certainly, they undertook many military actions together. Carloman joined Pepin against Hunald I of Aquitaine's rising in 742 and again in 745. [4] Pepin assisted Carloman against the Saxons in 742–43, when Duke Theoderic was forced to come to terms, and against Odilo, Duke of Bavaria, in 742 and again in 744, when peace was established between the brothers and their brother-in-law, for Odilo had married their sister Hiltrude.

Theoderic or Theodoric was the leader of the Saxons in 743–744. Onomastics suggests that he was related to the family of Widukind.

Odilo, also Oatilo or Uatilo of the Agilolfing dynasty was Duke of Bavaria from 736 until his death. He had the Lex Baiuvariorum compilation edited, the first ancient Germanic law collection of the Bavarians.

Strengthening of the dynasty

In his realm, Carloman strengthened his authority in part via his support of the Anglo-Saxon missionary Winfrid (later Saint Boniface), the so-called "Apostle of the Germans," whom he charged with restructuring the church in Austrasia. This was in part the continuation of a policy begun under his grandfather, Pepin of Herstal, and continued under his father, Charles Martel, who erected four dioceses in Bavaria (Salzburg, Regensburg, Freising, and Passau) and gave them Boniface as archbishop and metropolitan over all Germany east of the Rhine, with his seat at Mainz. Boniface had been under Charles Martel's protection from 723 on; indeed the saint himself explained to his old friend, Daniel of Winchester, that without it he could neither administer his church, defend his clergy, nor prevent idolatry.

Anglo-Saxons Germanic tribes who started to inhabit parts of Great Britain from the 5th century onwards

The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century. They comprise people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from continental Europe, their descendants, and indigenous British groups who adopted many aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture and language; the cultural foundations laid by the Anglo-Saxons are the foundation of the modern English legal system and of many aspects of English society; the modern English language owes over half its words – including the most common words of everyday speech – to the language of the Anglo-Saxons. Historically, the Anglo-Saxon period denotes the period in Britain between about 450 and 1066, after their initial settlement and up until the Norman conquest. The early Anglo-Saxon period includes the creation of an English nation, with many of the aspects that survive today, including regional government of shires and hundreds. During this period, Christianity was established and there was a flowering of literature and language. Charters and law were also established. The term Anglo-Saxon is popularly used for the language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons in England and eastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century. In scholarly use, it is more commonly called Old English.

Saint Boniface 8th-century Anglo-Saxon missionary and saint

Saint Boniface, born Winfrid in the Devon town of Crediton, England, was a leading figure in the Anglo-Saxon mission to the Germanic parts of the Frankish Empire during the 8th century. He organised significant foundations of the Catholic Church in Germany and was made archbishop of Mainz by Pope Gregory III. He was martyred in Frisia in 754, along with 52 others, and his remains were returned to Fulda, where they rest in a sarcophagus which became a site of pilgrimage. Boniface's life and death as well as his work became widely known, there being a wealth of material available—a number of vitae, especially the near-contemporary Vita Bonifatii auctore Willibaldi, legal documents, possibly some sermons, and above all his correspondence. He became the patron saint of Germania, known as the "Apostle of the Germans".

Pepin of Herstal Mayor of the Palace

Pepin II, commonly known as Pepin of Herstal, was a Frankish statesman and military leader who de facto ruled Francia as the Mayor of the Palace from 680 until his death. He took the title Duke and Prince of the Franks upon his conquest of all the Frankish realms.

Carloman was instrumental in convening the Concilium Germanicum in 742, the first major synod of the Catholic Church to be held in the eastern regions of the Frankish kingdom. Chaired jointly by him and Boniface, the synod ruled that priests were not allowed to bear arms or to host females in their houses and that it was one of their primary tasks to eradicate pagan beliefs. His father had frequently confiscated church property to reward his followers and to pay for the standing army that had brought him victory at Tours (a policy supported by Boniface as necessary to defend Christianity). By 742 the Carolingians were wealthy enough to pay their military retainers and support the Church. For Carloman, a deeply religious man, it was a duty of love; for Pippin a practical duty. Both saw the necessity of strengthening the ties between their house and the Church. Carloman donated the land for one of Boniface's most important foundations, the monastery of Fulda. [4]

The Concilium Germanicum was the first major Church synod to be held in the eastern parts of the Frankish kingdoms. It was called by Carloman on 21 April 742/743 at an unknown location, and presided over by Boniface, who was solidified in his position as leader of the Austrasian church. German historian Gunther Wolf judges that the Concilium was the high point in Boniface's long career.

Synod council of a church

A synod is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word synod comes from the Greek σύνοδος (sýnodos) meaning "assembly" or "meeting", and it is synonymous with the Latin word concilium meaning "council". Originally, synods were meetings of bishops, and the word is still used in that sense in Catholicism, Oriental Orthodoxy and Eastern Orthodoxy. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not. It is also sometimes used to refer to a church that is governed by a synod.

Catholic Church Christian church led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

Political ruthlessness

Despite his piety, Carloman could be ruthless towards real or perceived opponents. After repeated armed revolts and rebellions, Carloman in 746 convened an assembly of the Alemanni magnates at Cannstatt and then had most of the magnates, numbering in the thousands, arrested and executed for high treason in the Blood Court at Cannstatt. This eradicated virtually the entire tribal leadership of the Alemanni and ended the independence of the tribal duchy of Alemannia, which was thereafter governed by counts appointed by their Frankish overlords.

These actions strengthened Carloman's position, and that of the family as a whole, especially in terms of their rivalries with other leading Germanic families such as the Bavarian Agilolfings.

Withdrawal from public life

On 15 August 747, Carloman renounced his position as majordomo and withdrew to a monastic life, being tonsured in Rome by Pope Zachary. All sources from the period indicate that Carloman's renunciation of the world was volitional, although some have speculated that he went to Rome for other, unspecified reasons and was "encouraged" to remain in Rome by the pope, acting on a request from Pepin to keep Carloman in Italy. [5]

Carloman founded a monastery on Monte Soratte and then went to Monte Cassino. All sources from the period indicate that he believed his calling was the Church. He withdrew to Monte Cassino and spent most of the remainder of his life there, presumably in meditation and prayer. His son, Drogo, demanded from Pepin the Short his father's share of the family patrimony, but was swiftly neutralised. [6]

Seven years after Carloman's retirement and on the eve of his death, he once more stepped briefly on the public stage. In 754, Pope Stephen II had begged Pepin, now king, to come to his aid against the king of the Lombards, Aistulf. Carloman left Monte Cassino to visit his brother to ask him not to march on Italy (and possibly to drum up support for his son Drogo). [7] Pippin was unmoved, and imprisoned Carloman in Vienne, where he died on 17 August. He was buried in Monte Cassino.


  1. There is some discrepancy between the sources on his year of birth. It is given variously as 706, 708, 714, or 716.
  2. There is some discrepancy between the sources on his date of death. It is the 17 of either August or July.
  3. Norman Cantor, 1993. The Civilization of the Middle Ages, p.170.
  4. 1 2 3 Frassetto, Michael. Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe: Society in Transformation, ABC-CLIO, 2003
  5. Fouracre, p. 16.
  6. Riche, Pierre, The Carolingians, p.59
  7. Fouracre, p. 17. The Royal Frankish Annals is the only source for the Lombard explanation.


Carloman (mayor of the palace)
Born: 716 Died: 754
Preceded by
Charles Martel
Mayor of the Palace
of Austrasia

Succeeded by
Pepin the Short

Related Research Articles

741 Year

Year 741 (DCCXLI) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar. The denomination 741 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.


Austrasia was a territory which formed the northeastern section of the Merovingian Kingdom of the Franks during the 6th to 8th centuries. It was centred on the Meuse, Middle Rhine and the Moselle rivers, and was the original territory of the Franks, including both the so-called Salians and Rhineland Franks, which Clovis I conquered after first taking control of the bordering part of Roman Gaul, now northern France, which is sometimes described in this period as Neustria.

Neustria western part of the kingdom of the Franks

Neustria, or Neustrasia, was the western part of the Kingdom of the Franks.

Francia territory inhabited and ruled by the Franks during Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks, or Frankish Empire, was the largest post-Roman barbarian kingdom in Western Europe. It was ruled by the Franks during Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. It is the predecessor of the modern states of France and Germany. After the Treaty of Verdun in 843, West Francia became the predecessor of France, and East Francia became that of Germany. Francia was among the last surviving Germanic kingdoms from the Migration Period era before its partition in 843.

Liber Historiae Francorum is a chronicle written anonymously during the 8th century. The first sections served as a secondary source for early Franks in the time of Marcomer, giving a short breviarum of events until the time of the late Merovingians. The subsequent sections of the chronicle are important primary sources for the contemporaneous history. They provide an account of the Pippinid family in Austrasia before they became the most famous Carolingians.

Clovis III King of Austrasia

Clovis III was the Frankish king of Austrasia in 675 and possibly into 676. A member of the Merovingian dynasty, he was a child and his reign so brief and contested that he may be considered only a pretender. He is sometimes even left unnumbered and Clovis IV is instead called Clovis III. The only source for his reign is the contemporary Suffering of Leudegar.

Pepin the Short King of the Franks

Pepin the Short was the King of the Franks from 751 until his death. He was the first of the Carolingians to become king.

The Council of Cannstatt, also referred to as the blood court at Cannstatt, was a council meeting at Cannstatt, now a part of Stuttgart, in 746 that took place as a result of an invitation by the Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia, Carloman, the eldest son of Charles Martel, of all nobles of the Alemanni.

Drogo was a Frankish nobleman, the eldest son of Pippin of Heristal and Plectrudis. He was the duke of Champagne from the early 690s.

The Duchy of Alsace was a large political subdivision of the Frankish Empire during the last century and a half of Merovingian rule. It corresponded to the territory of Alsace and was carved out of southern Austrasia in the last decade of the reign of Dagobert I, probably to stabilise the southern reaches of Austrasia against Alemannia and Burgundy. By the late Middle Ages, the region was considered part of Swabia.

Theudebald or Theutbald was the Duke of Alamannia from 730 until his deposition. He was a son of Gotfrid and brother and co-ruler with Lantfrid from 709.

The Annales Mettenses (priores) or (Earlier) Annals of Metz are a set of Reichsannalen covering the period from the rise of Pepin of Heristal in Austrasia to the time of the writing, surviving as part of a wider compilation including, among other texts, the full entries of the Royal Frankish Annals for the years 806–829.

Drogo was a Frankish nobleman of the Pippinid family and the eldest son of Carloman, mayor of the palace of Austrasia, under the Merovingian king Childeric III. He succeeded to his father's office in 747, but was soon squeezed out of power by his uncle, Pippin III, the mayor in Neustria. He resisted his uncle's takeover, but in 753 was captured and forced to become a monk.

Rotrude (Chrodtrudis) was the first wife of Charles Martel, Mayor of the Palace and de facto ruler of Francia from 718 to 741. She was the mother of Pepin the Short, King of the Franks, and therefore the grandmother of Charlemagne. Rotrude is believed to be the daughter of Lambert, Count of Hesbaye, although this designation is not without controversy, as discussed below. She is also referred to as Rotrude of Treves.