CHILDERIC, the name of three Frankish kings.
Childeric I. (c. 437-481), king of the Salian Franks, succeeded his father Merwich (Merwing) as king about. 457. With his tribe he was established around the town of Tournai, on lands which he had received as a foederatus of the Romans, and for some time he kept the peace with his allies. About 463, in conjunction with the Roman general Egidius, he fought against the Visigoths, who hoped to extend their dominion along the banks of the Loire; after the death of Egidius he assisted Count Paul in attempting to check an invasion of the Saxons. Paul having perished in the struggle, Childeric delivered Angers from some Saxons, followed them to the islands at the mouth of the Loire, and massacred them there. He also stopped a band of the Alamanni who wished to invade Italy. These are all the facts known about him. The stories of his expulsion by the Franks; of his stay of eight years in Thuringia with King Basin and his wife Basine; of his return when a faithful servant advised him that he could safely do so by sending to him half of a piece of gold which he had broken with him; and of the arrival at Tournai of Queen Basine, whom he married, are entirely legendary. After the fall of the Western Empire in 476 there is no doubt that Childeric regarded himself as freed from his engagements towards Rome. He died in 481 and was buried at Tournai, leaving a son Clovis (q.v.), afterwards king of the Franks. His tomb was discovered in 1653, when numerous precious objects, arms, jewels, coins and a ring with a figure of the king, were found.
Childeric II. (c. 653-673), king of Austrasia, was a son of the Frankish king Clovis II., and in 660, although a child, was proclaimed king of Austrasia, while his brother, Clotaire III., ruled over the rest of the dominions of Clovis. After the death of Clotaire in 670 he became ruler of the three Frankish kingdoms, Austrasia, Neustria and Burgundy, but soon quarrelled with some supporters in Neustria, and was assassinated whilst hunting. He was buried at St Germain near Paris.
Childeric III. (d. c. 751), king of the Franks, was the last king of the Merovingian dynasty. The throne had been vacant for seven years when the mayors of the palace, Carloman and Pippin the Short, decided in 743 to recognize Childeric as king. We cannot say whose son he was, or what bonds bound him to the Merovingian family. He took no part in public business, which was directed, as before, by the mayors of the palace. When in 747 Carloman retired into a monastery, Pippin resolved to take the royal crown for himself; taking the decisive step in 751 after having received the celebrated answer of Pope Zacharias that it were better to name king him who possessed the power than him who possessed it not. Childeric was dethroned and placed in the monastery of St Omer; his son, Theuderich, was imprisoned at Saint-Wandrille.
See W. Junghans, Die Geschichte der fränkischen Könige Childerich und Clodovech (Göttingen, 1857); J. J. Chiflet, Anastasis Childerici I. Francorum regis (Antwerp, 1655); J. B. D. Cochet, Le Tombeau de Childeric I, roi des Francs (Paris, 1859); and E. Lavisse, Histoire de France, tome ii. (Paris, 1903).