Thugs and Miracles: A History of France

Benjamin Bernier

Welcome to Thugs and Miracles, the podcast where we’re looking back at history through the eyes of the kings and queens of France – from the fall of the Roman Empire to the fall of the guillotine.To tell our story, T+M uses the royals as a unifying thread, but we don’t look at just the kings; we try to understand what life was like for the people living under them. How must it have felt to live and die, all within a 10-mile radius of where you were born? For women, how must it have felt to live in a system which, under the Salic law, prohibited them from owning land? How exactly was life in the Middle Ages, this so-called “dark age”? More than answering questions, we tell the stories of the people who made history. We tell you the story of the beautiful Frankish queen who had an affair with a god. We explore Clovis and his conversion within the deepest lines of battle, and we explore his wife, Clotilde, and why she pushed so hard to change his religion – even risking her own life in the... read less

Childéric - Crossing Worlds (S1: E3)
29-09-2019
Childéric - Crossing Worlds (S1: E3)
Around 455CE, the Salian Franks of Belgica Secunda, an area that in modern times falls in and around Northern France and Belgium, were facing a crisis. They were fresh off of having helped to push Attila and his Huns out of Roman Gaul, and were generally gaining strength due to their military prowess and their ties to the Roman Empire; however, their leader, the great king Merovech – who as we discussed last time, was rumored to have been descended from the Roman gods themselves - had just died, leaving his young son Childéric in charge of the Franks. In a hereditary system where most elders die before the age of 50, having a very young leader in charge of a group of people was most certainly not out of place. But make no doubts about it, a 15-year-old king is an unknown quantity, and one should not be surprised if the new king allows his newfound power to go to his head. Well, this was the case with Childéric. He had been raised from birth to expect to wear the crown, and he had also been raised to learn that what he wants, he gets. And what Childéric wanted more than anything, at the testosterone-fueled age of 15, was to make time with every single girl who came near him. Of course, many of the Frankish leaders probably thought it was great, at least for a moment, that their daughter may be a tool for them to get close to their new king and the power he wielded. But after many, many of the daughters had been sent back home to their families, dishonored and no closer to wearing the crown of queen than before they spent the night with the king, the Franks got fed up. Or did they? Skewed histories and altered perceptions have given us this story of Childéric as a wanton defiler of young female Frankish virtue, penalized by his own people to live outside of the tribe for eight years until he could fix his lustful ways. In reality, it is much more likely that he was actually acting as a de facto Roman general during his eight years away from home; however, the story of a fallen king being given a second chance to redeem the wantonness and wickedness of his ways made for better allegorical reading. No matter which story you believe, the end result is that Childéric spent from roughly 455-481 as the king of the Franks, laying the groundwork for his son Clovis to eventually take the reins of this small northern tribe and transform them into the preeminent military and cultural force in Western Europe. Childéric played a role similar to that of Phillip II of Macedonia almost a thousand years earlier, with both leaving an inheritance to their sons that would allow them to make incredible gains at a very young age and in a relatively short amount of time. Besides a few great stories and an unimaginable inheritance for Clovis to capitalize on, Childéric's other great contribution to history was his grave, which was discovered in Tournai in the 17th century. This tomb, and the amazing artifacts therein, served to give us tangible proof of a king living in a time between two worlds. With an assortment of Roman artifacts mixed into a grave that would have made any Germanic chieftain proud, Childéric's legacy shows us how people in the 5th century made the transition from a Roman world to a new world wherein Rome was only a memory. Childéric touched both; he crossed worlds.
Clovis - The First King: Legacy (S1: E8)
08-12-2019
Clovis - The First King: Legacy (S1: E8)
Clovis never passed a day in his life as King without thinking about how he could expand his Kingdom and provide loot and booty to the lieutenants he trusted to burnish his hold on power. However, Clovis was pragmatic enough to sense that there were times when he could get more by using his brain rather than his brawn. The most obvious example of this is his conversion to Catholicism, but that wasn’t his only moment of inspired intelligence. He planted the seed of patricide in his rival Clodéric’s mind, leading to the downfall of both Clodéric and his father; he convinced another king's chiefs that he was a better King, leading them to turn their back on their boss and hand the kingdom to Clovis; and he never forgot a slight, real or imagined, and used these as justifications for power grabs. Once Clovis had his Kingdom, he solidified his hold on it; to do this, Clovis went down three paths. The first of these was the construction of The Church of the Holy Apostles, a project designed to simultaneously show the King’s great piety and his great wealth. The second path was the writing of the Salic Law, bringing Clovis's domain under his written control. And the third path was the First Council of Orléans in 511. This Council established a strong link between the Crown and the Catholic episcopate, with one its main tenets being "the obligation of the approval of the king and of the local civil authority for priestly ordinations." Clovis is said to have died on 27 November 511. He had done about as much in 30 years as could be expected of any 15-year-old who was handed the keys to the kingdom. It would be easy to sit back and say that Clovis was barbaric, that he was lied and cheated and relied on brute force. But to do so would be to overlook the fact that Clovis was actually very intelligent. He responded to the times in which he lived with the level of force and the attitude of realpolitik necessary to ensure that he not only survived, but thrived. He was the right person, in the right place, at the right time to take advantage of the situation that presented itself.   To get more T+M, check us out in the following places: Website: https://www.thugsandmiracles.com/ Email: thugsandmiracles@gmail.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThugsAndMiracle Facebook: https://facebook.com/thugsandmiracles Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thugsandmiracles/
The Sons of Clovis - Part I (S1: E9)
22-12-2019
The Sons of Clovis - Part I (S1: E9)
This week we’re going to explore what exactly happened after Clovis’s ended his 30-year reign and passed the torch to his sons Theuderic, Chlothar, Chlodomir and Childebert. Theuderic was Clovis’s oldest child by nearly a decade. He was born around 487, just a year or so after his father led his army to victory against Syagrius in Soissons. Not much is mentioned about his birth or his childhood except that Gregory refers to his mother as a “concubine” who had had a child with Clovis prior to him having met Clotilde. Well, Theuderic grew up tall and he grew up right, and by the age of twenty he went on campaign with his father in Vouillé. Following Clovis’s victory against Alaric in the main event, he sent his son to clean up in Visigothic areas to the east of the battle. According to Gregory, Theuderic “went, and brought under his father's dominion the cities from the boundaries of the Goths to the limit of the Burgundians.” As a result of all of this, Theuderic had a commanding lead over his half-brothers when it came time to determine the line of succession for their father. Clotilde’s three boys ranged in age from 14-16 years old at Clovis’s death, and would have had little, if any, military experience by this point. Although it’s possible that Clotilde may have tried to push her own children to the head of the line of succession, their status as minors, Theuderic’s claim as the first-born, and his military success alongside of his father guaranteed he would in no way be passed over. When all was said and done, a strong argument can be made that Clotilde did well to barter for as much as she was able to get for her boys. In the end, Clotilde was willing to bide her time and wait for an opportunity to push the career of all three of her sons. This event came about when myriad considerations came together to make an attack on Burgundy politically advantageous. Clotilde was not new to the political scene of this time and would have received an education both from the tragic events of her youth and from having been in Clovis’s presence for nearly two decades. She would have known the geography and she would have known the general location of her threats, her stepson included. She would have had all sorts of intelligence indicating for her that now was the time, and as a mother wanting to set her children up for success, she likely would have pushed them to move fast and hard. She may even have used a little Catholic mother guilt to get the job done, but what I find extremely unlikely is that she simply cried and wailed due to her “ungovernable passions” in an attempt to get her kids to avenge the deaths of her parents some thirty years prior. To believe otherwise is to rob Clotilde of her agency, and she showed on multiple other occasions in Gregory’s writings that she was intelligent, pious and headstrong.
The Sons of Clovis - Part II (S1: E10)
12-01-2020
The Sons of Clovis - Part II (S1: E10)
This week we’re going to explore the Frankish war in Burgundy and the fallout from the death of Clovis and Clotilde’s son Chlodomir. Remember, this war may have been fought by Clovis’s boys, but it was instigated for any number of reasons by the great king’s wife. In the end, it would be her who would experience, more than almost anyone else who survived to a natural death in our history, the truly vicious and zero-sum game nature of this first half of the 6th century. So let’s look at Chlodomir. This oldest son of Clotilde and Clovis to survive infancy was born in 495, making him just shy of 30 years old when he would have been waging war in Burgundy. He had been granted the region of Orléans following his father’s death in 511, and had gone on to marry a woman named Guntheuca in 517. Long story short, Guntheuca had been the granddaughter of the Burgundian King Godegeisel, the King murdered in Vienne after Clovis allowed Gundobad to escape the siege of Avignon way back in Episode Six. Godegeisel was Chlodomir’s great-uncle, hence making the husband and wife first cousins once removed. Together they produced three boys, Theodebald, Gunthar, and Clodoald. Now keep in mind, assuming Guntheuca and Chlodomir got pregnant almost immediately and she had her baby on time, that means the oldest child from their union would have been born in 518 and would have been no older than six at the time of Chlodomir’s death in 524. This becomes particularly important when looking at the events that occurred just after his death. Long story short, this week's episode takes a hard look at the power politics of the 6th century. Power moves came in many shapes and sizes, but the story today is perhaps the most repugnant of any of them: the murder of two small boys. Given the choice between good brothers who would see their oldest sibling's children raised to fill the throne he left behind, or being greedy middle-aged child-murderers, the Frankish kings Clothar and Childebert chose the latter. And to do so, they exploited their mother’s love and good faith to get control of their dead brother’s children, then put her on the spot to consider whether she would rather have the boys robbed of their birthright or executed. And then they carried out the murder of the two kids, boys who look at them as father figures, while they screamed and cried in shock, pain, fear and disbelief. I mean, holy brutal... As always, the music used for the show comes from Josh Woodward and includes his songs “Bully” and “Lafayette.” For a free download of these songs or hundreds of other great tracks, check out his site at joshwoodward.com. Notes on this episode and a list of sources is available online at thugsandmiracles.com; please check out the site and sign up for the e-mail list so we can keep you up-to-date on all things T+M. Speaking of email, you can write to us at thugsandmiracles@gmail.com, you can hit us on Twitter at @thugsandmiracle, with no “s” at the end, or you can leave a comment on Facebook and Instagram at @ThugsAndMiracles. Finally, if you enjoyed the show, I ask you to keep spreading the word! Your word-of-mouth does more than anything else to allow the show to grow. If you want to go a step further, leaving a review on whichever platform you get your podcasts is awesome and would really get this new decade started off right!
The Sons of Clovis - Part III (S1: E11)
26-01-2020
The Sons of Clovis - Part III (S1: E11)
This week we’re going to explore the relationships between the last three sons of Clovis, as well as the relationships with their potential successors. If you think about it, the Kingdom of Francia could easily have ended up in fractals if each of Clovis’s sons split their share of the kingdom into equal parts to then bequeath to their sons. Chlothar and Childebert already took care of that problem with Chlodomir’s kids, but eventually the remaining three would have to address this issue when one of them would finally die. Keep this in mind as we move forward… No matter what anyone thought of their culture, religion, or alliances, no one could deny that the Franks were a militaristic people who were not to be trifled with. They were a true force in the West, and it would have been better, at least until all of the rest of the enemies are dead, to ally with the Franks than to fight them. It appears that Justinian, Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, had a pragmatic side that the Frankish kings were able to inspire. As Professor Freedman had alluded to earlier, Chlothar, Childebert and Theuderic may not have been the best kings, and they certainly could have gone further and enjoyed more success if they had been smarter and less petty in how they ruled, but nonetheless they were still able to hold their territory, expand their borders, and make moves that confirmed their right as sovereigns both in foreign affairs and domestically. By the end of this episode we are now down from six total children of Clovis to three. Ingomer died in his infancy, Chlodomir was struck down in battle, and Princess Clotilde died returning from Spain. Chlodomir’s children were struck down by their uncles, and Princess Clotilde (not to be confused with her mother, Queen Clotilde) is not reported as having had any children, so up until this point the line of succession has been relatively well pruned, for lack of a better turn of phrase. This will change in our next episode, however, because we are going to pick up in 534 with the sudden illness of Theuderic. His son, Theudebert, was old enough to protect himself and had been hardened by war; if something were to happen to his father, he would not be cast aside so easily as the sons of Chlodomir. His story starts us off next time.
The Sons of Clovis - Part IV (S1: E12)
09-02-2020
The Sons of Clovis - Part IV (S1: E12)
This week’s episode explores the reigns of Theuderic’s lineage, Kings Theudebert and Theudebald of Austrasia. I know this is supposed to be a “sons” of Clovis episode, and Theudebert is a grandson and Theudebald is a great-grandson, but I would point out that the former, Theudebert, was born in 504. Childebert was born in 496, and Chlothar was born in 497, making the nephew of the true sons in this case only a few years younger than his uncles. There was actually a bigger gap in age between Theuderic and his half-brothers! At any rate, the bulk of Theudebert’s action is contemporary to the sons of Clovis, hence his discussion here. The same is true of Theudebald, mainly because he dies by the age of 20. Both of his great-uncles will outlive him. Anyway, Theudebert was kind of a stud! He was basically the Sonny Corleone of the Merovingian line. By the time he was a teenager he was commanding men in the field as a part of his father’s army, and it was commonplace for Theuderic to dispatch his son to take care of issues for him. Recall back to Episode Nine: Theudebert sallied forth to meet the Danish invasion of France in 516, the first Viking encroachment of France, and destroyed the invaders with such utter certainty that a) they didn’t bother coming back for 300 years after that, and b) he was immortalized in the epic poem Beowulf. I have said this before but it’s for repeating: Theudebert did all of this when he was only 13 years old! However, the Merovingian kings always had something in their closet that needed to be cleaned up/locked away/yada-yada’d over, and Theudebert was no different, both in his tumultuous love life and his outsized ambition. Our episode will focus on those, and in particular the short shrift that is given to Theudebert’s first wife, Deoteria. Deoteria comes down through history as a daughter-killing stalker type, but if you start peeling away at her history – written entirely by men with agendas – and suddenly she stops looking quite as psychotic - and possibly even sympathetic. Finally, we’ll finish off the show by briefly discussing Theudebald’s brief reign. He’s basically the poster child for what bad regents can do to an unsuspecting child-king. Long story short, Theudebald doesn’t have a long story. Alright, hit me with questions at thugsandmiracles@gmail.com, or go to the website at thugsandmiracles.com. I’ll be putting up the full text of the episode, my sources, and also some maps that will help illustrate the areas we’re talking about today. And if nothing else, find me on social media at Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!
The Sons of Clovis - Part V (S1: E13)
23-02-2020
The Sons of Clovis - Part V (S1: E13)
Extra special thanks this week to Henry at the History of the British Isles podcast! Look for our interview together at: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-history-of-the-british-isles/id1384286703 This week we are going to turn our focus on the last two sons of Clovis, Childebert and Chlothar. And to be honest, I’m going to give Childebert pretty small billing in this episode, mainly due to the fact that many of his other exploits – such as being the mastermind of the execution of his nephews, his “adoption” of Theudebert, and his constant maneuvering to take advantage of the weakened positions of his brothers and co-rulers – has been sprinkled in throughout the rest of the narrative. What’s most important to remember about Childebert at this point is that a) he had no male heirs, and b) his enduring legacy to the Merovingian Dynasty was to build the church of St. Germain de Près, which still stands to this day in Paris’s 6th arrondissement. So… Chlothar. This youngest son of Clovis lived a relatively long life, especially when compared with most of his brothers and his father. This is all the more impressive when one considers the sheer number of campaigns that Chlothar was involved in throughout his life. He came into his crown around the age of 14 in 511 and was engaged in wars in Burgundy alongside of his brothers on and off for the next 23 years, finally winning the territory when the Ostrogoths were unable to support the Burgundian king any longer due to the issues they were having in their territory. Chlothar fought alongside of his half-brother Theuderic in Thuringia, helping himself to a wife – Radegunda – while he campaigned. He also managed to evade assassination attempts by Theuderic while deployed into Germany. Chlothar fought in Hispania, modern-day Spain, alongside of Childebert in 542; however, according to historian Walter Perry, “The object of this invasion was simply predatory, the Franks soon after retired into Gaul with immense booty, and the Goths resumed possession of their devastated country.” With all of these conquests Chlothar expanded both his treasury and his borders, gaining holdings in various different areas, but much of these were scattered and disconnected. It was the childless death of Theudebald in 555 that brought Chlothar his greatest territorial advance. Anyway, what do we make of the legacy of Chlothar, Childebert, and the other sons of Clovis ? There’s no doubt that they were every bit as ambitious as their father, and in most cases they were as successful as Clovis. However, with all of them, you can’t look at the successes without also looking at the costs they paid for victory. Chlodomir paid for his ambition with his own life, and in a way, with the life of his sons. Theuderic and Theudebald seemed to be the stronger candidates for the title of King of the Franks, but they weren’t able to overcome basically mortality to ever get to this prize, no matter their strength on the battlefield; ultimately, their line went down in history as quietly as Chlodomir’s. Finally, Chlothar and Childebert both seemed to realize that there was a balance to be repaid for all they did in perpetuating the Merovingian Dynasty and its holdings and, especially in the later years of their lives, appear to have worked with the Catholic clergy in an attempt to expunge their mortal records. While it would ultimately be between them and their Creator to decide how well they had atoned – or if atonement was even an option for their actions – it’s safe to say that their actions were certainly not forgotten by those left behind. As we’ll see in the following episodes, their ambition, greed and general internal fractiousness became a staple of this period, an example to follow rather than a lesson to be learned from. The sons of Clovis set the standard and direction which the next generation would be all too willing to follow.
The Year That Was - 561 (S1: E14)
08-03-2020
The Year That Was - 561 (S1: E14)
I normally start out with a story of some sort, but today we’re going to recap our history a little and then take a look around the European world of the year 561. If you remember back to our earliest episodes, we started our history around 451 with the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains between Aetius and the Romans and Attila and his Huns. Well, 110 years later, it’s safe to say that a lot has changed! The Western Roman Empire stopped being a thing, the Franks went from being a small tribe in the north of Gaul to being the hottest new kids on the block, and the Goths went from looking like a sure bet to be the next source of power in the region… until they weren’t. In the midst of all of this we have seen four generations of Frankish kings, a timely conversion to Catholicism on the part of Clovis, the first appearances of the Vikings, the beginnings of cross-Channel troubles between the groups in Brittia and the groups on the Continent, and we’ve seen more infighting, backstabbing, double-crossing, sea-bull loving, nephew killing and just general silliness than you see in most “normal” histories. Honestly, if I presented all of this as a script to a movie producer, they would tell me that there’s no way this could have happened. But I think we’ve established that most of these stories are true, or at a minimum, at least based in a cohesive cultural and historical narrative. Everything has brought us here, to the precipice of a new, fifth generation of Merovingians getting ready to ascend to the Frankish throne. We’ll take a good long look at them starting in the next episode, but for now I want us to turn our attention outward, to those who they were fighting with in this early medieval period for power, influence and control. Some of these players – and in particular, the Armoricans – will be small but fiercely proud, unwilling to fall under the yoke of the Franks. Other groups, such as the Angles and Saxons, will compete directly with the Franks, but will seek out new lands to conquer as well when it becomes apparent that they won’t be able to expand any further to the west. In the case of the Goths, we’ll see how this once proud group – a faction who any betting person at the beginning of our history would have gladly laid money on to become the next rulers of Gaul – stumbled, divided and then fell. And finally, we’ll look at those members of the Roman Empire who didn’t stop considering themselves Roman simply because they had moved capitals, changed languages, and lost control of, you know, Rome: the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantines. Thanks to all of the following sites and podcasts that helped out and inspired this past week: The Year That Was: https://www.theyearthatwaspodcast.com/ The History Files: https://www.historyfiles.co.uk/index.html The History of Rome: https://thehistoryofrome.typepad.com/ Revolutions: https://www.revolutionspodcast.com/ The Fall of Rome: https://wondery.com/shows/the-fall-of-rome-podcast/ History of Byzantium: https://thehistoryofbyzantium.com/ The History of the British Isles: https://historyofthebritishisles.uk/ British History Podcast: https://www.thebritishhistorypodcast.com/ Our Fake History: https://ourfakehistory.com/ Hardcore History: https://www.dancarlin.com/
Rise of the Two Queens (S1: E15)
22-03-2020
Rise of the Two Queens (S1: E15)
Today's episode starts with a look at King Charibert and his addition to history. The intent behind this was two-fold: first, to show the expanding power of the Church and its relation to the Frankish state, and two, to remove Charibert from the narrative relatively quickly. His two main additions to history were a) to be excommunicated, and b) to be the father of Bertha, the Frankish princess sent to Kent, in Brittia, who would ultimately succeed in bringing her pagan husband into the fold of the Church and open the door for Saint Augustine (not thatSaint Augustine) to convert the English. The church Bertha used in England for prayer and services was named in honor of Saint Martin of Tours, that same blessed Martin who has played such an oversized role in these first formative centuries of Frankish and Merovingian existence; it still exists and can be visited to this day. According to the UNESCO World Heritage website: “St Martin’s Church, the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey and Christ Church Cathedral together reflect milestones in the history of Christianity in Britain. They reflect in tangible form the reintroduction of Christianity to southern Britain by St Augustine, commencing at St Martin’s Church where Queen Bertha already worshipped, and leading to the conversion of King Ethelbert.…St Martin’s Church has been in continuous use as a place of worship since the 6th century.” Beyond Charibert and Guntram, two of the Merovingian kings who proceed to get into the normal early-Medieval regal hijinks of backstabbing, betrayal and family murder, we also get to start looking at some new people on the scene who are going to shake our history right to its roots; enter Fredegunda and Brunhilda, the soon-to-be wives of Chilperic and Sigibert, respectively. We'll take a take a look at both of their ascents to Queenship and lay the groundwork for what will become the single most important interpersonal dynamic in all of Francia for the next 50 years. These two Queens will alter our history and change the game for the people in their time, as well as for centuries to come. Finally, if you're looking for other history podcasts to binge, be sure to check out the shows I mention in the closing notes of the podcast. All of them are listed on the Recommendations page of the podcast at https://www.thugsandmiracles.com/recommendations. Enjoy!
Brunhilda – Rise, Fall, and Rise Again (S1: E16)
01-04-2020
Brunhilda – Rise, Fall, and Rise Again (S1: E16)
Brunhilda had everything. As a Visigothic princess she had been raised to appreciate the finer things in life, to enjoy learning, and to know how to use her position and authority to influence those around her. As a Frankish queen, she was put in a place where she was beheld as a wonder by all around her, even her husband and his staff, as she dazzled them with her grace and intellect. She was courteous, kind and modest at all times in public – but behind closed doors Brunhilda was as busy as anyone in Francia, setting up lines of patronage and loyalty that would help to ensure she and her children would always have a place at court. She was happy with her position, to the point where she was even able to start getting used to the colder and gloomier weather of the north. “Everything is perfect,” she would say to herself. In her mind, it was impossible to think that anything could go wrong. Then, as so often happens when such thoughts cross a person’s mind, everything did go wrong. First, her sister was killed. This would have been a huge personal event in any day and age, but Brunhilda's sister was also the Queen of the neighboring Francian kingdom of Soissons. She had been strangled in a plot by the King and his concubine, a woman named Fredegunda. This led Brunhilda to push her husband to war to avenge her sister; it was all going well right until the end, and then it all went wrong. Fredegunda managed to get two assassins into Sigibert's camp and he was stabbed with poisoned knives. The attack changed everything. Instead of being the victor in the civil war to end all civil wars, Brunhilda was left sitting in a prison in Rouen, the guest of the royal couple who had murdered her sister, assassinated her husband, and who had just retaken their territory with little or no trouble. Luckily, she had smuggled her son to safety before she was captured. He was back in Austrasia, and now all Brunhilda needed was a way to get back to him. Luckily for her, she wasn’t the only person having family problems, and she certainly wasn’t alone in her hatred of Fredegunda... --- A quick note: The next two episodes are being moved up on the timeline to a 10-day release period timeframe instead of the normal 14. This might not sound like much, but what it means for you s that you’ll have three total episodes of Thugs and Miracles to listen to during the time it normally takes to make just two - and this just happens to coincide with the length of the UK coronavirus lockdown. It may not be much, but it’s at least something that we here can do to make your life there a little less boring while we all wait to see what comes next. I hope you enjoy; stay safe, and we'll see you again in 10 days!
Fredegunda (S1: E17)
13-04-2020
Fredegunda (S1: E17)
Today, as the episode’s title indicates, we’re going to look at the history from Fredegunda’s point-of-view. And it’s a pretty intense ride, to the point where, instead of trying to come up with some sort of catchy phrase to sum up the events of history in three or four words in the title, we chose to just go with the Queen’s name. Fredegunda, as we’ll see, is summation enough. Fredegunda appears to have been a self-made woman. Gregory implies that she had been a servant, and according to the historian François Guizot, she “was the daughter of poor peasants in the neighborhood of Montdidier in Picardy, and at an early age joined the train of Queen Audovera, the first wife of King Chilperic. She was beautiful, dexterous, ambitious, and bold.” She was also murderous, dangerous, ruthless, and probably a hundred other similar adjectives; she was DEFINITELY the world's worst. Stepmother. Ever. As you listen to today's episode, keep one question in mind: Was Fredegunda a horrible person and murderer, or was she a competent administrator who was unafraid to do whatever was necessary for her family and herself? Your answer to that question is going to color how you view the woman. As always, the music used for the show comes from Josh Woodward and includes his songs “Bully” and “Lafayette.” For a free download of these songs or hundreds of other great tracks, check out his site at joshwoodward.com. Notes on this episode, a list of sources, a monarchy/family tree, and much more is available online at thugsandmiracles.com; check it out and be sure to sign up for the e-mail list. Speaking of email, you can write to me at thugsandmiracles@gmail.com, you can hit me on Twitter at @thugsandmiracle (with no “s” on the end), or you can leave a comment on Facebook or Instagram at @ThugsAndMiracles. Finally, I’d ask that if you have found yourself with a bit of downtime due to current events, consider taking the time to rate and review the podcast on whichever platform you use to listen; we always love to see five stars.
Guntram - King and Pawn (S1: E18)
23-04-2020
Guntram - King and Pawn (S1: E18)
Before I get into the notes, I want to give a shout-out to my Dad on his birthday! This podcast has been a wonderful journey, and it's made even better by knowing that my family is supporting me by listening, offering encouragement, and providing feedback. My dad has always been there for me, and this experience has been no different; with all of that said, happy birthday and thanks for listening! Today we’re going to take a quick pause from the back and forth of Brunhilda and Fredegunda to get our bearings and re-evaluate who’s still in play. In all of the excitement, assassinations, illicit marriages and murders in the midst of the Easter Mass, it’s easy to forget that there were more than two people who were vying for control of Francia at this time. The most prominent of these “other” fighters was Guntram, the last of the four sons of Chlothar remaining alive and still the King of Burgundy. Of the four, Guntram was the only one to be acknowledged by the Catholic Church as a saint, which is relatively surprising given the opening story. But then again, it was the sixth century and things were… different. So maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised. We'll also get into the Gundovald Affair, an interesting attempt by a bastard child of Chlothar to leverage support from the Byzantine Dynasty to stake his claim to the throne. Beyond that, as I have come to realize that the narrative has taken on a bit of a Tarantino-esque, Pulp Fiction-style feel with characters arriving, getting fleshed out, and then eventually merging into the main narrative and overlapping with the other characters at key intervals, I chose to take a moment to take a quick review of the Merovingian world since the death of Chlothar in 561, just to sort out any possible confusion. Finally, I offer up a slew of other history podcasts you may like to try out while you have some time on your hands. I talk about them in more detail on the show, but as a quick who's-who, I offer you the following high-quality pods: Written In Blood History Happy Hour History The History of Byzantium The Year That Was Inside History The History of the British Isles Pax Britannica The Age of Napoleon The Siècle The French History Podcast Alright, enjoy the show and stay safe; the world will get back to normal again soon enough, so in the meantime let's enjoy this extra free time we have! And please, let me know if you have a show you think I should have included for everyone else to hear about; there's so much to listen to and we all love finding something new, so please feel free to share!
Merovingian Family Dynamics (S1: E19)
03-05-2020
Merovingian Family Dynamics (S1: E19)
Welcome back! This week's episode begins with a narrative rundown of the Gundovald Affair, the invasion of Francia by one of Chlothar's illegitimate and unclaimed sons. He was backed by the Byzantine Empire and disaffected aristocrats in all three Merovingian Kingdoms, so Gundovald's story expresses more than just one man's quest for power: the Affair also exposed underlying issues with disloyal subjects, power-hungry courtiers, faithless clergy, interfering empires and troublesome family dynamics. After Gundovald, we take a look at how Guntram, Childebert II/Brunhilda, and Chlothar II/Fredegunda are getting along. Their varied ascendancies and the personalities behind each kingdom set the stage for what's yet to come. With that said, Fredegunda is... unpleasant. She likes to use torture to pay back and silence her enemies, and there's a rather long passage around minute 26 wherein some of her practices are discussed in further detail. I have a warning in front of this passage and give time to skip ahead three minutes, so be aware of this as an issue if descriptions of torture are not your thing. Finally, I’ve had the chance to talk recently with David over at The History of Spain podcast and he has given me a really brilliant slide presentation for his show that breaks down the Visigothic Empire during the same span of time that we’ve covered during the course of this show. It’s an outstanding resource, as is his entire podcast, so be sure to check them out. Links to social media and the website: Site: https://www.thugsandmiracles.com/ Email: thugsandmiracles@gmail.com Twitter at @thugsandmiracle (with no “s” on the end) Facebook and Instagram: @ThugsAndMiracles History of Spain: https://thehistoryofspain.com/
Something's Gotta Give... (S1: E20)
13-05-2020
Something's Gotta Give... (S1: E20)
This episode, we’re going to move between all three of our main subjects, Fredegunda, Brunhilda and Guntram; by the time we’re done, we’re going to see power shift yet again and, by the end, one of these three will be exiting the scene. As far as Fredegunda: despite her extremely brutal personality, she remains one of those people who inspired the loyalty of those around her. This is purely conjecture on my part, but I can’t help but wonder if these Neustrian fanboys were more likely to be loyal because of her brutal nature, because they knew who she was and what she was capable of. Fredegunda was the archetype of the wicked queen, but at the same time, there seems to have been an honesty in knowing who she was and where she stood. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to assert that this forgives Fredegunda’s many, many violent actions; however, it does go a long way toward explaining her allure.   As far as Guntram: well, Guntram was boring. He was vanilla. I mean, seriously, look at his brothers… Charibert lived short and fast and was ex-communicated for his wild lifestyle before he died. Sigibert was victorious in love and war – all except for that assassin that his guard let through to him. Even Chilperic had a crazy love life and was constantly pushing his luck for an advantage. And then, beyond his brother kings, throw in Brunhilda and Fredegunda, and we can then push outside of the Frankish Kingdom to talk about the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora, and then there’s Gundovald as a usurper and, well, I stand by my assessment. Guntram was boring, and nothing I have found makes him really all that saintly either...   Finally, as far as Brunhilda and Childebert II: Childebert in this episode is 22 and has been sitting relatively idle for quite some time. As a result, he decides to pop off and go back on the offensive, but why? Perhaps he wanted to add a military victory to his resumé. Maybe he was bored. Maybe he was considering the conquest of Francia to be his personal manifest destiny. Maybe Brunhilda was whispering in his ear, telling him to fight. Or, perhaps, he was completely oblivious to military undertakings altogether. As a rich, pampered and sheltered monarch, it’s not inconceivable that an army could have been assembled and placed in the field in his name, but without his knowledge. It’s possible that Brunhilda had the army raised and sent out; she had been ruling in Childebert’s name throughout most of his youth and young adulthood, and she easily could have signed off on military plans in his name. However it happened, war was coming to Francia. The kings and queens demanded it.   As always, we’d love to see reviews. If you have a chance to leave us a written review, that’s great! We can’t wait to read it. But if you only have a chance to leave five stars, well, we’d love to see that too! Thanks for listening and all you do! And Happy Mother's Day to all those moms out there, in the U.S. and all over the world!   Links to social media and the website: Site: https://www.thugsandmiracles.com/ Email: thugsandmiracles@gmail.com Twitter at @thugsandmiracle (with no “s” on the end) Facebook and Instagram: @ThugsAndMiracles