Pepin The Short

Pepin III or Pepin the Short was the King of Franks from 751 till his death in 768. He was the first ruler from the Carolingian Dynasty of Frankish rulers. He was son of Charles Martel, Prince of Franks and ruler of Francia and father of the famous Frankish King Charlemagne.

Pepin received religious education from a young age from monks of Basilica of St Denis near Paris. This education had a profound influence on his personality and he turned out to be a deeply religious man. Pepin and his brother Carloman jointly ruled Francia after the death of their father in 741. In 747, Carloman a devout Christian retired to a religious life and Pepin became the sole ruler of Frankish Kingdom.

During his reign, Pepin was a great supporter of Papacy and fought several battles in support of Pope. Pepin is remembered as one of the most successful and a prominent ruler of his time but his reign was overshadowed by his remarkable son, Charlemagne.

Pepin The Short

Early Life: Pepin was born in 714. His father, Charles Martel was Duke of Francia and Mayor of Palace. Martel had gathered considerable influence and by the time he died in 741 he left territories of Austrasia, Alemannia and Thuringia to his elder son Carloman and Burgundy, Provence and Neustria to his other son Pepin III.

The two brothers jointly ruled the Francia till 747, when Carloman a deeply religious man, decided to retire from public life. Pepin thereafter ruled solely. A third son of Charles Martel and Pepin’s half brother, Grifo also claimed his share in inheritance after Martel’s death. However, Pepin and Carloman imprisoned him in a monastery.

As Mayor of Palace, Pepin had considerable influence over nobles. He was much more powerful than the King Childeric III, who only had a title without much authority. In 751, Pepin deposed Childeric and assumed the mantle as King of Franks. With the deposition of Childeric, the rule of Merovingian Dynasty also ended.

Reign: Immediately after taking over, Pepin declared war against Lombard King, Aistulf. He snatched the territories of Ravenna and Pentapolis from Aistulf and gave them to pope. This act is known in history as ‘Donation of Pepin’. These territories were used to create the Papal States.

Pepin’s rising power impressed Byzantine rulers and in an effort to forge good relations with him, he was given the title of ‘Patricius’ by them. In 752, Pepin turned his attention towards Septimania. It took him seven years to finally drive Umayyad Muslims out of Septimania into Hispania. Pepin subsequently embarked on a campaign to subjugate southern realms like Aquitaine and its Basque allies. After a prolonged military effort, Pepin finally defeated Waifer of Aquitaine in 767 and captured his capital city Bordeaux.

In 768, Aquitanian and Basque counts signed a pro-Frank peace treaty and accepted Pepin’s over lordship. Pepin also faced unremitting revolts of Saxons and Bavarians during his time in power. He tried very hard by campaigning extensively in Germany against them but to no avail. These tribes were however; finally dominated by his successor and able son Charlemagne. Pepin maintained a standing army and strengthened it with a well trained cavalry.

He brilliantly quelled a long standing revolt of Aquitanian nobles and pushed Iberian Muslims out of Septimania (present day France). Pepin is always viewed under the shadow of his great father and even greater son but he was an able and successful ruler himself.

Later Life and Death: Pepin III died at St Denis while coming back from a campaign in Aquitaine in 768. He was only fifty four years old at the time of his death.

After his death, his kingdom was distributed between his two sons, Charlemagne and Carloman I. Pepin was buried in the Church of St Denis, the very place he went to seek religious education.

His wife, Bertrada of Laon was also buried with him after her death in 783.