1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fredegond

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7340221911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 11 — FredegondChristian Pfister

FREDEGOND (Fredigundis) (d. 597), Frankish queen. Originally a serving-woman, she inspired the Frankish king, Chilperic I., with a violent passion. At her instigation he repudiated his first wife Audovera, and strangled his second, Galswintha, Queen Brunhilda’s sister. A few days after this murder Chilperic married Fredegond (567). This woman exercised a most pernicious influence over him. She forced him into war against Austrasia, in the course of which she procured the assassination of the victorious king Sigebert (575); she carried on a malignant struggle against Chilperic’s sons by his first wife, Theodebert, Merwich and Clovis, who all died tragic deaths; and she persistently endeavoured to secure the throne for her own children. Her first son Thierry, however, to whom Bishop Ragnemod of Paris stood godfather, died soon after birth, and Fredegond tortured a number of women whom she accused of having bewitched the child. Her second son also died in infancy. Finally, she gave birth to a child who afterwards became king as Clotaire II. Shortly after the birth of this third son, Chilperic himself perished in mysterious circumstances (584). Fredegond has been accused of complicity in his murder, but with little show of probability, since in her husband she lost her principal supporter.

Henceforth Fredegond did all in her power to gain the kingdom for her child. Taking refuge at the church of Notre Dame at Paris, she appealed to King Guntram of Burgundy, who took Clotaire under his protection and defended him against his other nephew, Childebert II., king of Austrasia. From that time until her death Fredegond governed the western kingdom. She endeavoured to prevent the alliance between King Guntram and Childebert, which was cemented by the pact of Andelot; and made several attempts to assassinate Childebert by sending against him hired bravoes armed with poisoned scramasaxes (heavy single-edged knives). After the death of Childebert in 595 she resolved to augment the kingdom of Neustria at the expense of Austrasia, and to this end seized some cities near Paris and defeated Theudebert at the battle of Laffaux, near Soissons. Her triumph, however, was short-lived, as she died quietly in her bed in 597 soon after her victory.

See V. N. Augustin Thierry, Récits des temps mérovingiens (Brussels, 1840); Ulysse Chevalier, Bio-bibliographie (2nd ed.), s.v. “Frédégonde.” (C. Pf.)