Dagobert I died in 638, the last energetic and effective Merovingian king; there followed over one hundred years during which ‘rois fainéants’ ruled in Francia — ‘do-nothing kings’. This traditional picture is misleading: there is a great deal of difference between the immediate successors of Dagobert and the misty figures of the early eighth century. If some seventh-century kings were ‘do-nothings’, it was because of dynastic accident: they were minors, under the domination of their mother or of the mayor of the palace. The period has often been seen in terms of the gradual and inevitable rise of the Carolingian mayors of the palace; but perhaps more significant in the long run (and far more inevitable) was the way in which the monarchy lost control of much of Gaul. The Carolingian reconquest of Gaul in the eighth century only brought a temporary pause in the movement towards regional and local autonomy.
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