Hey, so don’t fuck with the Germans, am I right folks?
I had these grand ideas to do a big super-French Bastille Day post here this week to celebrate the fact that a bunch of pissed-off Parisians attacked a fortress and decapitated their rulers almost exactly 225 years ago, but as I sat there watching eleven Germans repeatedly brutalize the already-comatose corpse of the Brazilian National Football Team like a team of 80s-film street thugs kicking a guy to death on the New York City Subway I had a distinct moment when I realized that I don’t write enough badass shit about how fucking hardcore the Germans are.
So this week I’ll reconcile both by writing about a group of people known as the Franks, who are basically Germans and French (and Belgians, I guess) at the same time, even though none of those sides wanna give the other guys credit for any of that (except for the parts that involve rampant inbreeding cousin-humping).
Specifically, I want to share the insane, plundergasmic experience of the blood-soaked Germanic barbarian ruler who forged the Frankish Kingdom into the dominant military force in Western Europe, established the Merovingian Dynasty atop a pile of burning corpses, and yet is still today revered by his successors as a hero of the Faith and the guy who basically invented the entire concept of France.
SWOON BEFORE CLOVIS
Legends say that even as a young boy, Clovis was never afraid of anything ever. Like, you could tell him the creepiest hook-stuck-in-the-door ghost story ever and right when the chick started crawling out of the TV he’d yawn, crack his knuckles, snap every neck in the room and then make a chicken salad sandwich with EXTRA FUCKIN MAYO because he wasn’t even scared of heart disease or food poisoning because there was no refrigeration for the mayo in goddamn 500 AD. When he was 14, Clovis was already making headlines in Frankland because this psychotic warrior-prince was fighting on the front lines of his father’s army, cleaving badass gigantic Visigoths from neck to groin with a single blow of his man-slaughtering battle axe, then leaping through their split-apart corpses to kill another guy behind them. He could also apparently tame ANY HORSE EVER, probably by unblinkingly staring them in the eyes and furiously swearing at them until they apologized and cooked him breakfast.
When Clovis was 16 his dad was like “yeah, ok, you’re king now,” and then died for some reason. The new Frankish ruler, known to the local Roman assholes as one of the “long-haired kings” because they were making fun of the fact that ne NEVER CUT HIS HAIR once in his entire life, immediately went to work turning Franks into France by killing every single human being in Gaul who didn’t agree with him. But especially the Romans because nobody talks shit about his EPIC TEUTONIC MULLET and lives to tell the tale.
You cannot talk shit on
this man’s style.
When Clovis first showed up outside the walls of Soissons in 498 AD to announce the Roman governor of Belgicae Secunda was about to spend the rest of his short miserable life eating through a straw, that asshole just started laughing like he was some muscle-bound shirtless jock dickhead kicking over a nerdy guy’s sandcastle and then nailing his girlfriend in front of him. "A boy! A boy has come to fight me! The Franks with a boy to lead them have come to fight the Romans! WHAT THE FUCK BRO LETS DO THIS"
Now allow me to regale you with a riveting tale of King Clovis and the Fall of the Roman Empire in Gaul as told through a four-panel comic strip.
FUCK YO STATUE
King Clovis led the attack personally, charging out in front of his army, “slaughtering many men,” and trying to carve his way through the Romans and gut that idiot governor like he was de-boning a fish with a table saw. But that dumbass was long gone, running for his life never to be heard from in history forever. Clovis destroyed the Romans, sacked Soissons, and threw the Roman Empire out of Gaul forever. From this point on, Gaul was Frank’s Turf.
Then, just in case anyone had any questions about it, King Clovis conquered EVERYONE ELSE IN GAUL Julius Caesar-style, sacking, plundering, looting, pillaging, and burning with impunity. He’d drink hardcore booze all day long, slaughter his enemies in combat, and then have any cowards dumb enough to surrender be brought before him in chains so he could personally crush their skulls with an axe for being weaklings because QUITTERS NEVER WIN FOOL.
Oh, here’s a weird Clovis story that I couldn’t figure out where else to put it in here: One time Clovis was dividing up some plunder and one of his guys got all pissed off and broke a really nice vase with an axe. Clovis got pissed, but did nothing. The next day, Clovis called his entire army together for a weapons/gear inspection. In front of the whole army, Clovis ordered that guy to come forward, inspected him, and then told him his boots weren’t shiny enough. When the guy bent down to check his shoelaces or whatever, Clovis SPLIT HIS HEAD WITH AN AXE he whipped out of fucking nowhere, then beat his chest, grabbed his balls, and shouted something like DON’T FUCK WITH ME ASSHOLES I WILL MURDER YOU.
Clovis destroyed the Burgundians, the Allemani, some other guys, and kicked the asses of more Goths than Lithium addiction. He became the most powerful and largest Kingdom in Gaul, ruling a territory that stretched from the Rhine to the Pyrenees, setting up the boundaries of modern-day France, and laying the foundations for the name of modern-day France because it’s just a mis-spelling or something of Franks anyways. He was also the first guy to make Paris his capital, which is pretty fucking rad.
Even though he was way the hell over in Greece the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I thought Clovis was the shit so he made him an Imperial Consul of Byzantium, and the Pope in Rome sent a bunch of bishops over to hang out in Clovis’ court. When Clovis wasn’t cleaving, he also set up the Pactus Legis Salicae, a code of laws that combined well-thought-out ancient Roman judicial practices with Christian teachings and added just enough badass old-school Barbarian Justice that the code is still worth mentioning today.
Get the bad guy Clovis.
Get that mothafucka!
Clovis married a super-hot Burgundian princess named Clotilda who was actually pretty awesome. She was a capable hand in keeping him from being completely insane, because Clovis believed women had the power of prophesy so he took everything she said really seriously, even when it was like, “Hey don’t kill that guy.” The only marital bickering shit came because she was a hardcore Catholic and kept harping on him to convert and he was all like DAMNIT WOMAN I DON’T FEEL LIKE IT or whatever. (Like any good husband he eventually caved, but I’ll get to that in a sec). He did build a bunch of cathedrals and stopped plundering churches though, and he was so cool to the Church that a bunch of bishops would write a lot of really nice stuff about him later.
Clovis’ conversion to Christianity is a great story. Basically, not long after kicking the fuck out of a bunch of Arian Christian heretic bastard Visigoths and conquering Bordeaux and Aquitaine in 507, Clovis was attacked by a tribe of Allemani barbarians who came from all the way on the other side of the kingdom and blized over from Germany. Clovis’s guys were tired from killing so many heretics, and they were getting the crap kicked out of them. So, with the battle seemingly lost, Clovis is like, “OK FINE. Jesus, if you can kill all these guys for me I’ll be your best friend for ever. Pretty please with a cherry on top.”
And, if you believe the story of the Catholic Bishop who wrote this tale down, God came to the rescue.
The battle turned almost immediately, the barbarians were destroyed, and Clovis became the first Catholic king of a barbarian Germanic Western European people. He was personally baptized by the Pope in Reims on Christmas Day 508 and then died a few years later, passing off the realm to his kids and starting the Merovingian Dynasty that would rule France for 200 years. Nowadays he’s considered the Father of France and there’s a painting of him hanging in the Hall of Battles in the Louvre.
Clovis, by the way, was later French-icized to “Louis”, and the French had 18 Kings named after him. One of them, Louis XVI, was beheaded not long after the Bastille was stormed, an act that took place exactly 225 years ago this Monday.
Clovis even looks badass getting Baptized by the Pope.