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Pepin III (Pepin the Younger)

Pippin the Younger (714-September 24, 768) often known under the mistranslation Pippin the Short, was a King of the Franks (751-768). He was born in 714 in Jupille, in what is today part of Belgium, but then was a part of the kingdom of Austrasia. His father was Charles Martel, Mayor of the Austrasian Palace, and his mother was Chrotrud (690-724).

In 740 Pippin married Bertrada of Laon. Of their children, two sons and two daughters survived to adulthood.

  • Charles/Charlemagne (April 2, 742-January 28, 814)
  • Carloman (751-December 4, 771)
  • Redburga
  • Lady Bertha

On the death of Pippin's father, Charles Martel, in 741, power was passed down to Charles' legimitate sons, Pippin and Carloman. Power may also have been intended for Charles' illegitimate son, Grifo, but he was imprisoned in a monastery by his two half-brothers. Carloman, who by all evidence was a deeply pious man, retired to a monastery in 747. This left Francia in the hands of Pippin as Mayor of the Palace for the Merovingian King Childeric III. Childeric had the title of King but Pippin had control over orders and actually had the power of the king. Pippin then went to ask the Pope who should be complete ruler; the person with the title of king, or the person who makes the decisions of king. The Pope agreed that the decision making was more important than the title. He succeeded in obtaining the support of the papacy, which helped to discourage opposition. He was elected King of the Franks by an assembly of the Frankish leading-men and anointed at Soissons, perhaps by Boniface, Archbishop of Mainz.

During his reign, Pippin's conquests gave him more power than anyone since the days of King Clovis. He added to that power after Pope Stephen III traveled all the way to Paris to anoint Pippin in a lavish ceremony at Saint Denis Basilica, bestowing upon him the additional title of Patrician of the Romans. As life expectancies were short in those days, and Pippin wanted family continuity, the Pope also anointed Pippin's sons, Charles (eventually known as Charlemagne) and Carloman.

Pippin's first major act was to go to war against the Lombard king Aistulf as a partial repayment for papal support in his quest for the crown. Victorious, he forced the Lombard king to return property seized from the Church. In 759, he drove the Saracens out of France with the capture of Narbonne and then consolidated his power further by making Aquitaine a part of his kingdom.

Pippin died at Saint Denis in 768 and is interred there in the Saint Denis Basilica with his wife Bertrada.


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