Clovis I

Clovis I was the first king to unite all of the Franks under one rule in 5th century. He is known as the first king of what is now present-day France. He is the founder of the Merovingian Dynasty that ruled over Frankish territory for two centuries after his death.

Clovis I

Early years

Clovis I was born sometime around 466 C.E. to Childeric I, the Merovingian king of the Salian Franks. His mother was Basina, a princess of Thuringian decent. His father was a supporter of Rome. Little is known of Clovis I’s upbringing and education. Historians presume he was schooled in military tactics at a young age like most children of royalty.

Career as king

At the age of 15 years old his father passed away. Clovis I was anointed King of the Salian Franks. He did not have much of an army to work with at this time. Clovis I’s army may have only been 500 soldiers.

He decided to form an alliance in 486 C.E. with Ragnachar and Chalaric, two leaders of Frankish tribes. The three set out to inflict damage on the Romans in Gaul.

Their army marched on Syagrius who was the last Roman governor in the Gaul. They met at the Battle of Soissons where Chalaric betrayed the other two leaders and refused to fight. Even without the help of Chalaric, their army was successful in defeating the Romans.

After the fighting was finished, Clovis I demanded that Syagrius be given to him for punishment. The Visigoth King Alaric II agreed and upon Syagrius’s arrival back to Soissons he was beheaded. After this Clovis I invaded the territory held by Chalaric and imprisoned Chalaric and his son.

Clovis I proceeded to continue his invasion of Roman territory in Gaul. He plundered village after village taking no mercy even on the churches. He would go on to capture Reims, Verdun, and Paris after stubborn resistance. He eventually made Paris the capital city of his empire.

Clovis I knew he could not fully overtake the Romans without the help of the clergy and church. In 493 C.E. he forged an alliance with the Ostrogoths. He married Clotilde who was of the Catholic faith who was the daughter of the King of the Burgundians.

Conversion to Catholicism

With support intact Clovis I ordered the deaths of several other Frankish chieftains. He marched on Alemanni in 496 C.E. Many of his soldiers left to fight for the Alemannies. He suffered great casualties at first in the Battle of Tolbiac.

Battle of Tolbiac

It is believed that this is when Clovis I converted to Catholicism to the delight of his wife Clotilde. He was baptized on Christmas Day in Reims. In later years Clotilde would be made a Saint for her help in converting the pagan king to Christianity.

With his conversion, many Frankish tribes converted to Catholicism denouncing their traditional Arianism. Moving forward in 500 C.E.

Clovis I was instrumental in conquering much of present-day France including territories held by the Burgundians, Armorica, and the Kingdom of the Visigoths who were led by King Alaric II. With the death of the Visigoth King, Clovis I controlled a vast territory of land.

In 511 C.E. Clovis I died. His kingdom was divided into four parts. Each son received a portion of the kingdom. In order to do so new political units were created which were the Kingdoms of Rheims, Orleans, Soissons, and Paris.

The Merovingian Dynasty would rule over what is now present-day France for the next two centuries.

Important facts about Clovis I

  • Clovis I was born in 466 C.E. to Childeric I the Merovingian king of Salian Franks. His mother was Basina, a princess from Thuringian.
  • Clovis I became King of the Salian Franks at the age of 15 years old.
  • He defeated Syagrius which ultimately ended the rule of the Western Roman Empire in Gaul.
  • Clovis I was instrumental in unifying the Frankish tribes under one king.
  • He started the Merovingian Dynasty of kings that ruled for more than two centuries after his death.
  • Before he converted to Christianity he plundered many churches while conquering Gaul (present-day France). He converted to Christianity in 496 C.E. with the help of his wife Clotilde.
  • He defeated the famous Alaric The Visigoth to strengthen his empire.
  • Clovis I was considered to be the first King of France.


  1. Clovis I defeated which Roman governor at the Battle of Soissons?


  1. What dynasty did Clovis I start that lasted two centuries in power?

Merovingian Dynasty

  1. Who helped Clovis I convert to Catholicism and Christianity?

His wife Clotilde

  1. What is Clovis I considered to be in history?

The first king of France