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Pepin or Pippin (714 – 24 September 768), called the Short, and often known as Pepin the Younger or Pepin III, was the Mayor of the Palace and Duke of the Franks from 741 and King of the Franks from 751 to 768. He was the father of Charlemagne.

He was the son of Charles Martel, mayor of the palace and duke of the Franks, and of Rotrude of Trier (690–724).

Assumption of power

Pepin's father, Charles Martel, died in 741. He divided the rule of the Frankish kingdom between Pepin and his elder brother, Carloman, his surviving sons by his first wife: Carloman became Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia, Pepin became Mayor of the Palace of Neustria. Grifo, Charles's son by his second wife, Swanahild (also known as Swanhilde), demanded a share in the inheritance, but he was imprisoned in a monastery by his two half-brothers.

As in the Frankish realm the unity of the kingdom was essentially connected with the person of the king, Carloman, to secure this unity raised the Merovingian Childeric to the throne (743). In 747 he resolved to enter a monastery. This left Francia in the hands of Pepin as sole mayor of the palace and dux et princeps Francorum, a title originated by his grandfather and namesake Pepin of Heristal.

At the time of Carloman's retirement, Grifo escaped his imprisonment and fled to Duke Odilo of Bavaria, who was married to Hiltrude, Pepin's sister. Pepin put down the renewed revolt led by his half-brother and succeeded in completely restoring the boundaries of the kingdom.

Under the reorganization of Francia by Charles Martel the dux et princeps Francorum were the commanders of the armies of the kingdom, in addition to their administrative duties as mayor of the palace, and specifically commander of the standing guard which Charles Martel had begun maintaining year-round since Toulouse in 721.

First Carolingian king

Pepin was subject to the decisions of Childric who had only the title of King but no power. Childric was considered a joke by the people.Since Pepin had control over the magnates and actually had the power of the king, he now addressed to Pope Zachary the suggestive question: In regard to the kings of the Franks who no longer possess the royal power, is this state of things proper?Hard pressed by the Lombards, Pope Zacharias welcomed this advance of the Franks which aimed at ending an intolerable condition of things, and at laying the constitutional foundations for the exercise of the royal power. The pope replied that such a state of things was not proper. The de facto power is more important than the de jure power.

After this decision the throne was declared vacant. The crown was given him not by the pope but by the Franks. According to the ancient custom Pepin was then elected King of the Franks by an assembly of Frankish leading-men, with a large portion of his army on hand (in the event that the nobility inclined not to honor the Papal bull), and anointed at Soissonsmarker, by Boniface, Archbishop of Mainz, who, along with his niece, Saint Leoba, was a court advisor. Meanwhile, Grifo continued his rebellion, but was eventually killed in the battle of Saint-Jean de Mauriennemarker in 753. Childeric III was deposed, his hair shaved off and he was confined to a monastery. He was the last of the Merovingians.

Expansion of the Frankish realm

Pepin added to his power after Pope Stephen II traveled all the way to Parismarker to anoint him in a lavish ceremony at Saint Denis Basilicamarker, bestowing upon him the additional title of patricius Romanorum (Patrician of the Romans). As life expectancies were short in those days, and Pepin wanted family continuity, the Pope also anointed Pepin's sons, Charles (eventually known as Charlemagne) and Carloman.

Pepin the Short's first major act was to go to war against the Lombard king Aistulf, who had a policy of expansion into the ducatus Romanum, 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 and confirmed the papacy in possession of Ravennamarker and the Pentapolis, the so-called Donation of Pepin whereby the Papal Statesmarker was founded. In 759, he drove the Saracens out of Gaul with the capture of Narbonnemarker and then consolidated his power further by integrating Aquitainemarker into the kingdom. In taking Narbonne, and formally annexing Aquitaine (whose status was always dependent on the strength of her suzerains), he completed the work of his father save for one last task: fully subduing the Saxons. He was preparing for war against them when his health began to fail, and thus, this final task was left for his son, the great Charlemagne.


Pepin died during a campaign and was brought to Saint Denis to be buried near the saint in 768 and is interred there in the basilica with his wife Bertrada. Pepin was buried "outside that entrance [of Saint Denis Basilicamarker] according to his wishes, face down, for the sins of his father Charles Martel".

The Frankish realm was fractioned according to salic law between his two sons: Charlemagne and Carloman I.

Historical opinion often seems to regard him as the lesser son and lesser father of two greater men, though a great man in his own right. He continued to build up the heavy cavalry which his father had begun. He maintained the standing army that his father had found necessary to protect the realm and form the core of its full army in wartime. He not only maintained his father's policy of containing the Moors, he drove them over and across the Pyreneesmarker with the capture of Narbonne. He continued his father's expansion of the Frankish church (missionary work in Germanymarker and Scandinavia) and the infrastructure (feudalism) that would prove the backbone of medieval Europe.

His rule, while not as great as either his father's or son's, was historically important and of great benefit to the Franks as a people. It can certainly be argued that Pepin's assumption of the crown, and the title of Patrician of Romemarker, were harbingers of his son's imperial coronation which is usually seen as the founding of the Holy Roman Empire. He certainly made the Carolingians de jure what his father had made them de facto—the ruling dynasty of the Franks and the foremost power of Europe. While not known as a great general, he was undefeated during his lifetime.



In 741, Pepin married Bertrada of Laon, Her father, Charibert, was the son of Pepin II's brother, Martin of Laon. They are known to have had eight children, at least three of whom survived to adulthood:
  • Charles (2 April 742 – 28 January 814), (Charles the Great)
  • Carloman (751 – 4 December 771)
  • Gisela (757–810)
  • Pepin, died in infancy.
  • Chrothais, died young, buried Metz.
  • Adelais, died young, buried Metz.
  • Two unnamed daughters


  1. Pepin's name can be very confusing. Historically, historians have vacillated between preference for Pepin, derived from the French Pépin, and the German Pippin. His nickname is also subject to whims, le Bref being translated as either "the Short" or "the Younger". The Younger is explained as referring to the fact that he was the younger of the two Arnulfing Pepins who ruled as mayors of the palace; the Short as deriving from the tales of Notker Balbalus regarding the King's diminutive size. More novel suggestions include a suggestion that "the Short" referred to his hair—since he was the first Frankish king to wear his hair shorn short. Dutton, PE, Charlemagne's Mustache.
  3. Treffer Gerd Die französischen Königinnen. Von Bertrada bis Marie Antoinette (8.-18. Jahrhundert) Pustet, Regensburg (1996) pp. 23-29 ISBN 3791715305 ISBN 978-3791715308
  4. Medieval Lands - Franks, Carolingian Kings Retrieved on 8 November 2008

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