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The alleged "banner of the Franks"

Last modified: 2003-01-18 by ivan sache
Keywords: franks | clovis | toad | fleur-de-lys |
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Clovis, king of the Franks

Clovis [Chlodweg] (465-511), became king of the Salian Franks in Tournai after the death of his father Childéric I in 481. He defeated Syagrus in Soissons (486°, the Alamans (495 and/or 505 or 506), the Burgunds (506), and the Wisigoths in Vouillé (507).
He founded the unified Frank monarchy and became the only king of the whole Gaul. The Byzantine emperor granted him the title of patrice. Clovis protected the Roman Catholic religion and called a Council in Orléans (511).

His baptism c. 496 made him the first "Barbarian" king to adopt Roman Catholicism as personal religion. The only documentation on his baptism is the book by St. Gregor of Tours and the year of the event is still controversial, as well as most of the "historical" events of Clovis' life.

After his death, the kingdom was divided among his four sons Thierry I (king of Austrasie), Clodomir (king of Orléans), Clotaire I (king of Neustrie), and Childebert (king of Paris).

Ivan Sache, 22 October 2000

The "banner of the Franks"

An heraldic legend from the XIIIth century claims that Clovis used a banner charged with toads before his conversion to Christianism. The toads were considered as pagan and devilish animals.

During his baptism by St. Rémi in Reims on Christmas Day 496, an angel brought from the heaven a shield seme with fleur-de-lys, which was immediatly adopted by the new Christian king.
The event explains the mythical divine origin of the arms of France and the specific protection granted by Christ, the Blessed Virgin (whose attribute is the lys), and the Holy Trinity to the king and the kingdom of France.

The legend was widespread during the XIV-XVIth centuries. In the XVIIth century, it was undestood that coat of arms could not have existed before the XIIth century and the legend was rejected by heraldists. Anyway, it remained accepted in the United-Provinces and England during the wars fought by Louis XIV as a means of ridiculizing France and its king. Louis XIV was often represented with a banner and a coat charged with toads.

Source: M. Pastoureau [pst98]

The mythification of Clovis was one of the ideological bases of the absolute power of divine origin exerted by the king of France, and the monarchists still consider his baptism as the founding act of France (as the "Senior Daughter of the [Roman Catholic] Church).

Ivan Sache, 22 October 2000