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Dagobert II.

Dagobert II (c. 650 – December 23, 679) was the king of Austrasia (676–79), the son of Sigebert III and Chimnechild of Burgundy. He was the last of the Merovingian dynasty to rule independently in Austrasia, with the exception of Charles Martel's dubious candidate Clotaire IV.

Contents

Biography

Dagobert II was the son of Sigibert III (631–56), an Austrasian king of the Merovingian line. The Arnulfing mayor of the Austrasian palace, Grimoald the Elder, the son of Pippin of Landen, and Dagobert's guardian, had had his own son Childebert adopted by Sigebert III, when Sigebert was still childless. Then when Sigebert died in 656, Grimoald seized the throne for his own son and had Dagobert tonsured and exiled.

The tale that Dagobert was ordered to be killed and his death published about, but that he was spirited out of the country, seems to be an embellishment, perhaps developed to explain the silence of Dagobert's mother Chimnechild. She may have cooperated with Grimoald to set up Childebert the Adopted; later she hoped by marrying her daughter Bilichild to Childeric II to keep the eventual Austrasian heir in her bloodline.[1] It has also been hypothesised that Chimnechild was not Dagobert's mother, thus her reason for abandoning him.

Dagobert was given to the care of Desiderius, Bishop of Poitiers, where there was a cathedral school. The boy was sent on to a monastery in Ireland, sometimes identified as Slane, to be further trained as a page at an Anglo-Saxon court in England. An old tradition relates that he married Mechthilde, an Anglo-Saxon princess, during his exile, but the tradition that among his daughters was Saint Hermine, abbess of Oëren, and Saint Adula, abbess of Pfalzel, are fabrications, perhaps designed to link the saintly foundresses of these abbeys with the revered Merovingian line.

In the meantime the great nobles of Austrasia appealed to Clovis II, king of Neustria, who expelled the usurpers, executing Grimoald and Childebert, and added Austrasia to his own realm. The dating of these events is greatly confused, they occurred perhaps as early as 657 or as late as 661, under Clotaire III, Clovis' son. The effective ruler however was the Neustrian major domo Ebroin, who was obliged soon thereafter (in 660 or 662) to give the Austrasian realm a king of its own once more: the choice was the child king Childeric II, brother of Clotaire III, with a mayor of the palace, Wulfoald, as regent. The young king was assassinated on a hunt near Maastricht in 675, and in the chaotic power struggle that ensued, the Austrasian magnates, who wanted a king of Merovingian blood, pressed Wulfoald for the return of Dagobert, while opponents of Wulfoald acclaimed one Clovis III, possibly an impostor. Ebroin returned from a monastic "retirement" to lead Clovis' partisans, but Wulfoald effected Dagobert's succession in 676, partly through the help of Wilfrid, Bishop of York, on Clovis' untimely death. In spite of the continuing bitter enmity of Ebroin and the party who had attempted to press Clovis as an alternate candidate, Dagobert was restored to a portion of his rightful lands, a territory along the Rhine, which pious tradition relates that he governed with the mildness and piety his childhood experience had taught him, but which history suggests he left largely to the mayor of the Austrasian palace, while he concerned himself more with the founding of cloisters and abbeys, including Surbourg and Wissembourg in Alsace, where the Duke was his cousin. Nonetheless, he was undoubtedly an intelligent, educated man, an adult at the time of his succession, who could not be completely controlled by factions and mayors.

The dynamics of Dagobert's career are largely a passive reflection of the competition between two sources of power, patronage and prestige, the palace institutions of Neustria on the one hand, and on the other, of Austrasia, firmly in the control of the Arnulfing dynasty that would become the Carolingians in the following century. In the chaos, the search for a consistent, rational pattern is hard to follow in the shifting loyalties.

During revived conflict between Neustria and Austrasia, Dagobert in his turn was murdered in another hunting incident, December 23, 679, near Stenay-sur-Meuse in the Ardennes, probably on orders from Ebroin, still mayor of the palace in Neustria. Wilfrid must have remained in Austrasia until this time, because, according to his biographer, Wilfrid left Austrasia after the death of Dagobert, in mortal danger from the supporters of Ebroin. At the cloister of Stenay afterwards there grew a cult of Dagobert, venerated as early as 1068 as "Saint Dagobert". The cult spread from there into Lotharingia and Alsace, and Saint Dagobert is recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, like his father and many royal Merovingians.

After Dagobert's brief reign, leaving his lands without a male heir, the lords of the Rhineland divided the territory among themselves, while Pippin II, Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia (679 – 714) dominated Austrasia, and left the throne empty until after the battle of Tertry (687), when he accepted Theuderic III.

The Feast Date of St Dagobert II is 23 December [2]

Rennes-le-Château

The name of Dagobert II achieved prominence in the 20th century, when it became associated with speculation which tried to link Dagobert II and his supposed descendants with a secret Merovingian line of legitimate royal succession, unjustly displaced by the Carolingian and Capetian monarchies but continuing into modern times.[3] It is currently one of the central legends associated with the conspiracy-laden French village of Rennes-le-Château. Some hoaxsters, led by Pierre Plantard, had forged two sets of documents to fabricate supposed proof of the existence of a thousand-year-old secret society, the Priory of Sion. One set of documents, the Dossiers Secrets, was planted in the Bibliothèque nationale. The other set was published in a 1960s French "hidden treasure" book, Le Tresor Maudit de Rennes-le-Chateau. In the book were (forged) Latin documents that had supposedly been found by a priest in the 19th century. An encrypted message hidden in one of the Latin documents revealed the phrase, "A Dagobert II Roi et a Sion est ce tresor et il est la mort." ( "To King Dagobert II and to Sion does this treasure belong, and he is there dead.")

Henry Lincoln, a British science-fiction author, spotted the encrypted message in 1967, and, unaware of the hoax, he and some associates began writing books about what the message might mean. This eventually brought the story to mainstream attention via the 1982 book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. The book attempted to put forward a hypothesis that Jesus Christ had married Mary Magdalene and sired a child who had later married into the Merovingian line, and that the assassinated Dagobert II had really had a secret male heir who had been spirited away to "his mother's hometown" of Rennes-le-Château after his father's death.

It was later shown that much of the research in Holy Blood Holy Grail was based on the forged documents.[4][5][6][7] However, the theory gained further attention when it was incorporated into the 2003 bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Because Brown claimed that the information about the Priory of Sion was "factual," many debunking books and documentaries resulted, further bringing the little-known name of Dagobert II into the limelight.

Notes

  1. ^ "Merovingian". http://www.j-paine.org/merovingian.html.  
  2. ^ Patron Saints Index: Saint Dagobert II
  3. ^ Gérard de Sède, L’Or de Rennes, later republished as Le Trèsor Maudit de Rennes-le-Château (1967).
  4. ^ The History of a Mystery, BBC 2 Television, transmitted on 17 September 1996
  5. ^ The Real Da Vinci Code, Channel Four Television, presented by Tony Robinson, transmitted on 3 February 2005
  6. ^ Bill Putnam, John Edwin Wood. The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau, A Mystery Solved (Sutton Publishing Limited, Gloucestershire GL5 2BU, England, 2003.)
  7. ^ Jean-Luc Chaumeil, Rennes-le-Château – Gisors – Le Testament du Prieuré de Sion (Le Crépuscule d’une Ténébreuse Affaire), Editions Pégase, 2006

References

Further reading

  • Wallace-Hadrill, J.M. 1962. The Long-Haired Kings, and Other Studies in Frankish History, (London: Methuen & Co.)
  • Ian Wood, The Merovingian Kingdoms 450-751(Longman, 1993)
Dagobert II
Born: 650 Died: 679
Preceded by
Clovis III
King of Austrasia
676-679
Succeeded by
Theoderic III
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